Wednesday, November 2, 2016


One of the problems I've
had in life has been making
things hard  -  for myself.
It all stems back, I always
thought, to my father  -  once
again  -  he always 'taught'
me (his phrase  -  he always
announced it so, "Now,
listen up, I'm gonna' teach
you something")...that
nothing should come easy,
nothing should 'be' easy,
anything good could only
be good after trouble and
toil. The easy things were
never right. Be suspicious.
If it seems too easy, or too
good to be true, inspect it
carefully for something's
wrong. I took all that to
heart. Meanwhile, of
course, he's driving some
old '60 Chevy wagon
with bad brakes 85 mph
along Route One, and
trying to impress this
lesson on me using his
hands as he talked
(an old Italian trick).
I'd sit there and think,
'Oh boy, this death's
gonna' be too easy. Must
be something's wrong
with it.' Lesson learned.
Growing up was a
hardship. Even more
difficult was trying to
explain something
to my father, something
personal, anything. For
instance, my constant
drawing. He would fume
at me for, he said, wasting
time, sitting around drawing
and reading, or any of that
'creative' stuff. He'd ask
why? What was I up to?
Etc. It was always hopeless.
The most complicated I
ever got to explaining
to him was weirdly, one
day, just saying  -  'Dad,
I draw places I want to
be. I make the places
that I need to exist in.'
Whew! Might as well
have explained 'talking'
to a rooster.
So I was taught that things
should always be difficult.
Boy, that's a real help. like
having legless pants. I don't
mean shorts either. I mean
legless pants. get the dilemma?
It is or it isn't. Legless pants?
I never used that one on my
father, though I should have
tried. He'd probably mutter,
as he often did, 'I swear,
you're gonna' be breaking
stones in Alcatraz someday.'
Or maybe it was rocks. I
never understood that one
anyway, although I did
actually see cartoons now
and then where prisoners,
in cartoon prison garb,
were actually doing that,
like with leg irons on and
in a stone-yard. So I guess
it bore some validity. But
why Alcatraz?, I always
wondered. Both my
grandfathers had died
in East Coast prisons.
Now they weren't good
enough? He could have
said Dannemora, or
Sing Sing. I wouldn't
have minded.
So, my head was always
full of trouble, my whole
life was trouble, basically,
and hardly worth the living.
Thus, I guess, I kept running
off. The train wreck was a
good diversion, for a while.
Then the seminary, and then
too running off as I did for
New York City. Which is
where I pick up this story.
Struggle and toil : Yes, both
were pretty good watchwords
for the normal run of things.
When I got to NYC I really hit
it head on. There were guys
there who were defining
'struggle'. It made anything
of my own past, of the silly
yard and lawn male-eunuch
crowd of old Avenel, look
like a lark-song. I never knew
what my father knew, but I
decided that he'd blown it
anyway by ending himself,
and my mother, and me, up
in a dumbass place such as
that. There guys  -  my father's
group  -  I understand, were
determined and forceful and
each wanted new and better
post-war lives for themselves -
they'd selected 'Avenel,' -
yet from my perspective
giving up on city and urban
living, and 'greening' out to
nowhere places like this was,
represented a huge error. In
so many ways - ecological,
psychological, metaphysical,
intellectual, and more. A
complete abandonment of
any human reserve of psychic
awareness. What'd we get
because of it: 'Alpha-Bits'
and 'Cap'n Crunch', 'Lawn
Doctor' and Little League
suburban dumb-ass parks.
I was never happier to have
gotten away than when I'd
gotten away. New York,
once I landed, was the best.
I was in the very middle of
real guys, real people, with
their stories and hurts, the
fallen and the failed, all the
grand remnants of 'what
had been. 'Dad,' I often
wanted to say, 'Dad, here
are the guys with struggle
and trouble.' These were
slumming men, later-life
failures, and I met most of
them around the fire-barrels
of the lower west-side piers.
If there were ten of these
there were fifty. Men,
hunched and mostly silent,
with their cigarettes and
bottles  -  smaller-size whiskey
bottles, swigged and drunk,
not with abandonment, but
with concise clarity and a
real drinker's precision. The
times I'd come around, I
was always entered in, the
young kid getting the tales
and stories and sorrows
of the old. Things regretfully
told in the drum-circle of
smoke and booze  -  and the
grand warmth and exaggerated
light of the fire-barrel.
Sometimes a beer. Always a
cigarette. I always found
cigarette to be such a dainty
name for what it really was.
A 'female' cigar, really,
cigar-ette; white and
pristine. I guess it all
once mattered, to men
and to ladies, who
smoked what. These
guys, they all together
bent and pitched, or
were bent and pitched;
sometimes an old
wharf-dog around
them too. The sloth
of longed-for food;
and the laughter which
sometimes arose, of a
private notion or a
shared thought.
watched, as if
shuttered, and kept
their words covered
with smoke and spittle.
Laughter was rare, but
it occurred  -  the
Chinese cook, bent over,
stirring a pot of hot, hot
and boiling, water, a brew
of some slopman's soup
or dockworker's stew.
Other men came and
went : big, strong men
in oily jackets, with
shirts underneath, and
they carried hooks and
hammers or pulled carts
with ropes or threw things
down to sit a moment
amidst others  -  deep
despair, or not, everywhere.
But on each tongue, another
story. Working. Toiling.
All through the nights.
They emptied ships and
boats. The floodlit passages
shone, often wet with a
wash-down or just dirty
and dusted with toil.  I'd
be around, seeing and
taking note. The guy
called 'Doc' but whose
name was Darnton,
from Amboy-Point
Grocers. I'd see him
enough to know and
say hi. I told him we
shared a town. He
laughed. 'It's big enough
for two, yeah, I guess!'
I meant Perth Amboy,
near to from where I
was from. I think he
thought I meant New
York City.
Darnton used to come in
early mornings, and when
he did he'd pick up a small
truckload of fruits and
vegetables  -  the wholesale
district, it all was  - flowers,
meats, vegetables, Gaanesvort
Market stuff. He'd take it
all back to Amboy later, for
sale at the stands there. No
longer like that, everyone
now takes pride in 'local'
produce, locally sourced,
grown nearby. In the days
I'm writing of, people
didn't do that, or care.
The wholesale districts
supplied the vendors,
who supplied the people
- and the source of it all
be damned. No one cared.
This 'Doc' Darnton guy was
a character. Always a
lesson or a story to go.
"For it was good and even
God saw that it was  -  and
He said - "Yes, this is good,
and now Adam needs a
woman!" and so He created
Eve in the very image of
Himself too ('Eve buys my
vegetables you know'). And
God too then was delighted
with what he'd made and
took a great pleasure in
what He had done, saying,
for what I have done, all
of this, is good, and Mankind
shall prosper by it. And all
you knew knew, and those
who did not did not. Thus,
this is all as it should be,
and will be." Well anyway,
that was par of it, one of
Darnton's tales. I never
knew if he was preaching
or just going on. Nobody
much got involved, just
shrugged him off. Trouble
was, there was always
more coming. These guys
were all sullen, really in
no mood for his stuff. They
were tough and briny and
sorry and sad, and lonely
too. They did NOT need
what he was about to spring
on them.  The men stood,
or sat at their loading dock
tables, and looked up at the
getting-louder voice they
heard. But men alone, yes,
and without a woman beside
them  -  '"And so it was I shall
pleasure them yet in ways
unknown" He said;  -  and
thereby The Flesh Tunnel
(spoken loudly) was created,
leading indeed to another world
entire, a world of Pleasure!
my friends, pleasure.' And
then he went on from there  -
that Darnton, called Doc.
Just like Shakespeare, Dad!
'Double, double; toil and
trouble!' (Macbeth).

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