Thursday, December 1, 2016


One thing that was
always interesting to
me -  even if it was
sometimes difficult
as well  -  was to
understand the contrasts
between my own 'lives'
at the present (then) and
before it (then too). I'm
using 1967 as the crossing
line. That was a totally
momentous divide. There
have been others for me
since, yes, but this was
a telling one itself. I had
to sit down some and think.
I'd really have to say that
so much was all gummed
up and just waiting to be
sorted out : look at a life,
it's a huge amalgamation
of events and feelings, but
if it's not sorted and  - so
to speak - catalogued,
none of it's accessible,
and it just gets wasted. It
has to do with my previously
mentioned idea, a few
chapters back, about
establishing 'context' for
things. Without that it's
all nothing but a huge
wad of gum, too large
for the chewing.
Realize that, just a
year before, I was
being jammed through
the close of high school,
under the most hideous
group of fingerprints
imaginable, which prints
were all over me. The
churning mill of the
entire operation was
then oriented towards
turning out either
college-bound robots
or the loose ones, who'd
eventually be bound for
Vietnam anyway. The
idea was of the 'war'
having predominance
and a paramount
importance over
all else. After all the
grease and fire of
fighting all that for
a year, seeing myself
instead at liberty on
the streets of New
York was liberating.
All those feckless kids
back in Woodbridge,
even the good ones,
the ones set for Princeton
and Brown  -  there were
a few  -  and the others, they
seemed just, instead, to be
biding time waiting to see
how life disposed of them.
They'd hang around at a
corner place at Grove and
Amboy Ave., back then,
called 'Jardot's.' There was
not much more there than a
soda-fountain, ice cream
and candy store, a few
tables and a long counter.
Not much at all. There was
somewhere around a kid
named Bobby Jardot or
something, whose family
owned the place. Big 
tycoons, in Woodbridge 
terms, owning a corner 
candy-store. All these 
otherwise rancid kids
with nothing else to do 
had somehow made it 
their task to judge or 
gauge their lives by
their presence at Jardot's.
When success begins to
seem inestimable, you
throw long, I guess. Poor
schmucks  -  always able
and ready with the mouth,
but short in the head. At
some point I reviewed all
this. In light of my new
situation, this looked silly.
I used to think of God as a
humorist  -  and part of the
humor, I figured, was in us
having been given  -  without
our knowing it or realizing
it  -  unseen means, at every
turn hidden from us, the keys
and the means, of expanding
each and all of our lives,
eternally and outward. But
never knowing it. That was
the joke part; us, working
blindly with a chuckling God
looking on and seeing what
we'll each do with our times
and circumstances. And then,
of course, no matter what the
result  -  even the very worst
ones  -  accepting it all and
bringing us all back in. 'He'
forgives us all, as the religions
put it. Eternity amidst small
moments  -  all we're ever
given to see. I always
figured that was why
the comedy mask and
the tragedy mask were
the very same, with the
only difference being
the upturn or the
downturn of the
facial look. That
was the part left
up to us.
This came especially to
light one day along 8th
Street, not too long after
I'd settled in; maybe 
that August. I was 
walking along and all
of a sudden, unexpectedly,
a small clutch of 5 or 6
Woodbridge High School
kids were walking along 
the street, in the same 
direction I was going. 
They caught up to me
and all of a sudden I was 
the all-hail fellow of the 
year, best friend, how ya'
doing and all that. Up until
this time, in school, I had
been the detestable school
foil for all their jaunty fun.
Now I guess I represented
something completely 
different to them  -  the 
breakaway iceberg they
wanted to ride. I said hi,
and fairly left it at that.
If you're on the wrong side
if history, can you ever
get to the right side of
the future? That's what 
I thought of as they 
walked away.
It was funny, as well, for 
me to think about a place 
like Woodbridge from the 
distance of my newer NYCity 
perch. It suddenly all seemed 
so small and unimportant. 
Gertrude Stein had been 
memorably quoted a million 
times already, saying  -  about 
Oakland, California  -  her famed 
 quip, 'There's no there there.'
The same could have been said
perfectly of Woodbridge too.
The downtown was dwindling to
nothing, old-style haberdashers
and pharmacies dying off, another
one gone, it seemed,  every ten days. 
The societal push of 'strip-malls' 
and 'shopping centers' slowly 
pushing everything away from 
these otherwise valuable and
once secure town centers. With
that went 'America' too. It all
became crooks and deal-makers,
mostly over just these issues
of real-estate, re-zoning, getting
cut in on the deal, pillaging 
heritage, tearing up the old turf, 
and the rest be damned.

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