Monday, September 26, 2016


189. A TRIM?
Oftentimes, after the evening
meal, a lot of the kids would
go to the rear of the refectory
out the doorways to the
classroom building hall
where there were banks of
lockers - we each had an
assigned, full length locker.
People kept whatever they
wished in them  -  flannel
play shirts, jackets, personal
effects not needed in the
sleep-room areas, toys even.
Many of the kids were very
often getting 'care-packages'
from home  - big slabs of
candy bars, bags of peanuts,
etc.; anything that could be
packed and sent. One of the
all-time favorites seemed
always to be large M&M's,
I guess the almond ones.
They rent small like the
regular chocolate M&M's,
much larger, and they came
in big bags. Those who got
that sort of thing would
go out there and gorge;
buddies and friends too. I
can't remember ever getting
any sort of package from
home. I guess it would have
been cool; as it was, maybe
once or twice I got someone
else's shared overflow, a cookie
or a candy bar, a handful of
these M&M's, but not much.
I remember, kind of, just
wishing for such. Each of
us was also allowed to keep
a small 'bank account' at the
bank window  -  for snacks
and whatever. A lot of the kids,
they always kept a plentiful
balance. And used it a lot at the
vending machines by the gym
- where there were all sorts
of things available  -  an ice
cream machine, all sorts of
drinks, candy bars, chips and
pretzels even a coffee and
coca machine and some
pre-made lame old
sandwiches. A lot of kids
just hung out there and
went at it. Yeah, fat and
acne developed here too,
just like in any might-be
other voraciously-sweet
high-school. Except
without girls around
no one really even cared.
We had some real
self-contained and ugly
guys  -  piles of 'chubby'
and skin-oil, not much
caring. And then we had
the other extreme  - the
two-showers a day guys.
(We mostly all knew what
that meant). But they were
the prissy ones  -  all those
men's cologne fragrances
floating around, fine leather
shoes, nice fabrics on their
clothing, and, most tellingly,
button sweaters tied at the
waist, instead of worn, and
hanging down from there.
Really weird  -  like girls do.
Have you ever seen jogging
or walking girls, with a throw
sweater or something? It's
always, if not worn, tied at
their waste and used to cover
their butt. I guess girls don't
like their butts showing, or
something. It was the same
with these guys. Real freaking
poppers, they were.
This was way before 'signature'
clothing was in vogue  -  all
Polo and Ralph Lauren labels
and logos. Any and all of
them, unheard of  -  Eddie
Bauer, even North Face.
Most of us just wore 'clothes'
whatever we could get. When
the pants began getting too 
'shiny' we'd add them to the
weekly laundry sack. But
this sub-text of an elite had
always these fine-weaves,
sweaters and jackets, grand
corduroys with fancy buttons
and shields. Penny loafers
were big too. It really
mattered to them, as
important as, like,
not wearing white
after Labor  Day. They
even sometimes used 
the available 'dry-cleaning' 
service with the weekly laundry 
pick-up. Now that was some
elitist stuff for sure.
Yeah man, big-time,
high-stepping, elite
church dudes.
My own parody of a bank
account usually got one
bounce, maybe twice a
year, of about 80 bucks,
mostly for used textbooks,
which we'd then sell back,
It never really got replenished.
Maybe if, as happened
some, I'd get a family visit,
they'd plunk in another
10 bucks. 80 bucks itself
was considered big time.
Other kids, on visit days,
would have parents and
sisters and all come on in,
pick them up in their big
fancy Chryslers and stuff
and go out to 'dine' at some
schmaltzy restaurant. We'd
end up with macaroni salad
and cold chicken, usually
while my mother went on
about the beauties of the
Stations of the Cross path,
with all their displays and
statuary, and my father
would start complaining
about something or other -
or have to stick his head
under the hood of the car
to make they could do the
90 miles to get home. That
was only a few times,
maybe, a year. We had a
sizable number of rich
kids, mostly from Deal and
Spring Lake, those 'big-lawn'
towns, and their father were
guys in Trenton government.
Governor Hughes, who was
Governor then, actually had
been himself a student there;
and we had the sons of some
'dignitaries', Commissioners
of this or that, in NJ State
government. (A lot of the 
wealthy used this place as a 
private-school dumping
off for their sons, to keep 
it all safe. Forget all the 
'priesthood'  stuff). And other 
days,they'd get visitors and I'd
get none  -  often enough I'd sit
around a few minutes as the 
arrivals and departures came 
and went, just to see these guys'
often really stunning sisters mill
about. Another world, all. Funny
as it was, I became one of the
seminary 'barbershop' guys,
after the simplest of learning
and preparations to cut hair,
and these money dudes
would sit down for their
trims and haircuts. Got
to know every body, and
more than a few times I
was tempted to say, to some
of these rich guys, 'Sit. Here,
let me take a little off the
bottom....OF YOUR
EARS!!' Ha. That would
have been my joke.
A lot of it was just a fussy
prissiness that wore thin
very quickly. But I never
cared, I just ignored it. All
that shaving and preening,
all those showers and Camay,
Jeez, you'd think it was a girls'
school instead of for boys.
We had nothing much to do
anyway. One or two more of
these guys, one friend from
Brooklyn, would sit around
all the time listening to LP's
of Broadway soundtracks
and show tunes. Egads, I
hated those loud, throwy
Broadway voices that people
sang with, as if absolutely
every one of them had
somehow ingested an Ethel
Merman flank steak and
could only belt out tunes
and emote. I must have
heard every sidebar tune
of Camelot and My Fair
Lady and Brigadoon and
West Side Story and South
Pacific a hundred times.
Truly, a jagged bore, John.
We'd play baseball, the real
kind. Hardball, not softball.
Sneak in  a hour and a half
game here and there sometimes.
There were tennis courts, and
only sometime I'd do that  -
too fussy and self-conscious,
paddling around with all those
softies. Pole-vaulting was
always fun to me. But our
favorite thing, about five
of us, was what we called
'long distance running.'
These were Alan Sillitoe
days, remember  -  some
British guy who had written
'The Loneliness of the Long
Distance Runner,' and then
it had been turned into a film,
with some famous English
guy in the lead, Courtney
Cameron or one of those
fancy-ass'd fey names.
For us that film just about
summed it all up. It was
massive and right. Individual.
Singularity. The real poise
of true self-possession. it
turned out, imagined visually,
to be all I ever wanted out of
this bum life. So we'd just take
off, running. I said five, before,
but it was mostly just me and
this crazy guy from Bangor,
Maine, named Leo Benjamin.
He and I would run. Just run.
Talking, making things up,
going on back and forth
about stuff. Leo was in my
grade, but I think he was a year
older. He talked with that
flat, bizarre (bizaahhh) Maine
accent, and was a wildman.
Would just say things, stuff
I'd never heard before, He
only stayed, I think, two
years and was then gone.
I never know what happened
to old Leo. He was real 'Maine-
poor' -  like in that book called
'Le'Tourneau's Used Auto Parts',
by some lady author about 
Maine. 1988 Carolyn Chute, 
I think. Maybe Shute. A 
fictional story, but whenever
I read it later, it always brought
me back to Leo. Pretty perfect.
We'd run but good  -  out 
behind all the farmland and 
side acreage there was a 'retreat
house'  - ladies groups and 
church clubs would come here
for long weekends or week-long
'spritual retreats'. St. Pius X
Retreat House, I think it was 
called  - like a big bed and
breakfast would be now. Large
house, with rooms, conference
area and a little chapel. I never
knew nor cared (we never had
anything to do with it) what it
meant for the priests and brothers,
giving homilies and talks and
confessions and all to the 
visiting ladies, but I always
figured  -  the way church
ladies get off on authority
and priests and all  -  that 
some of these guys might
have gotten themselves
'satisfied' a time or two on
these 'retreats, if such was
their inclination, instead of
us boys. (Ha. Ha). You can
laugh now, yeah, but things
never are what they seem, 
and sometimes it takes 
thirty years for the real 
dirt and truth about
things to come out. So,
no matter, Leo and I 
would run the dirt/sand 
paths in the pine woods, 
for as, long as we could -
knowing we'd have to 
get back too; so we had
to keep 'outward' distance 
in mind. The Pine Barrens
back then were desolate
and cool, with here and there
a cabin or two, some side
road to nothing, bee-keepers
things, old sheds, broken 
down tracks and cars Half
of the whole place,  where
there was roads, of a sort, 
was nothing but a lover's 
lane anyway. We all knew 
that. Back then, the deal
was  -  as we'd heard and 
saw  -  once you 'got lucky' 
with your girlfriend, you
were supposed to leave
her 'panties' hanging on
a tree limb right there. So
there would be, here and there,
yes, bloomers (back then they
were all alike, and certainly
didn't belong to Victoria), 
hanging from tree limbs. 
Mostly white, and cotton,
but sometimes those shiny, 
satiny fabrics in soft colors
would show up too. A real
trip. I never figured what
the girls went home with, or
without  -  or maybe they
carried along a spare pair 
and ran right to their rooms.
Whatever. Now, to make 
things worse, old Leo here,
(young Leo?) from deep 
woods Maine, laid claim 
to being sexually experienced 
in these matters, and quite 
proficient too. The Maine 
way. So I'd have to put up
with him telling me all the
stuff you wouldn't want to
know right now, from smells
to sounds to duration. Good
old Leo. Man of the hour.

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