Sunday, November 6, 2016


All that it ever comes down
to is satisfaction, I guess.
Old Mr. Cigatura, in 1955
and a few years later, the
janitor of our elementary
school, he always seemed
satisfied. Never talked
much, to us kids anyway.
He just went about his
pretty-much pre-ordained
tasks, every day, one after
the other. He had a 1951,
or maybe a '53,  Plymouth
station wagon, light grey.
Whatever it was, they were
plain and drab and boxy
cars, with a most-simple
rear taillight that just
seemed added-on, a
design afterthought, as
if they'd said, at the last
moment, 'uh-oh, we're
supposed to have a taillight.'
I always loved that car,
its boxy functional and
compact yet functional
form. Like Mr. Cigatura
too, just a quiet and serious
task-doer. Mr Cigatura
lived up Avenel Street,
before Route One and the
firehouse at the corner.
It was a simple, tall, white
cement house. Back then too,
the firehouse was a simple
but tough-looking structure,
with a monument  -  a giant,
old, fire-alarm clanger out
front, basically an I-Beam that
had been made into a circle
and hung; firemen used to
clang it with a hammer, to
ring for fires. Raw and
utilitarian, again. That's
all different now  -  the
fire-corner now is like 
an overbuilt, tax-fed
bloat, more like a social
club for fire-dudes, and 
Mr. Cigatura's house, 
after a massive remodel 
and rebuild, looks like
any drug-addict's stucco
version of the Taj Majal.
But, in Avenel, both of
those things go on the 
books as 'progress.'
I never took 'satisfaction'
from that stuff. I never
like 'improvements. I 
always detested 'progress'. 
I think there are a lot of
flaws and problems in 
the fabric of the day, and
they just get worse as
people continue harping
on the idea that they have
the 'solutions.' The 
solutions are 'stop doing 
what you're doing, fool.' 
But it goes on. You see,
the simplicity factor of
a complete life is what's 
missing now. When Mr.
Cigatura finally did retire,
maybe in my 4th grade,
maybe 5th, all of us kids,
the entire school's worth, 
were arrayed in the rear 
yard, all brought out there
in his honor. Every kid had
been collecting pennies  -  
yes, pennies  -  for months
to be gathered and handed
over to him, in sacks, at
his little retirement 
ceremony. Back then,
the school had been 
heated by coal, and Mr.
Cigatura spent lots of
his time tending the coal
furnace/boilers in the
basement of School 4, and
cleaning out and dumping 
the ashes too, used for a
'pavement' then  -  no
macadam no tar. The hard 
ashes settled in and were 
pressed in by the cars, and
became a perfect surface.
It was on the very same
surface that we handed 
off to him what seemed
to me to be ten billion
dollars worth of pennies.
I was awestruck, and he
seemed truly humbled,
just a quiet, tough, 
grand old man getting
his good due. 
I thought about him 
for years, just always
remembering him and
the observation I'd made
about him. For years, I 
had to doubt : had I 
made him up, did I 
figmentize this person,
seeming so authentic 
and strong and vital 
to a little boy? It was
only years later, and not
that far back either, that
I actually stumbled upon
a proof of his presence. 
In the town of Woodbridge,
perhaps 2 miles from 
my home now, there's 
a walkway/park along
one of the town-center 
streams. Heard's Brook,
or something, I think it's
called. Nothing really,
basically already rudely
affronted by the town,
it runs out to go under 
Route Nine and the 
piddling monstrosity
that is 'Woodbridge 
Center', a ghetto mall 
of sorts around here;
where the clay pits used
to be. (Another story, for
another day). Along the
walkway at Heard's Brook,
there are about 20 historic
site plaques, on nice 
pedestals, about the 
sights and the varied
histories of greater 
Woodbridge. At just 
about the last one, 
way down by Rt. 9, 
there's a plaque 
illustrating a
meeting or a dinner 
or something, an old
photograph reproduced 
well, of all the Woodbridge
School District janitors,
assembled. There, in
black and white, and 
with his name in the 
list of attendees,
is Mr. Cigatura!

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