Tuesday, December 27, 2016


280. AVENEL, pt. 2
In addition to what I've
already mentioned, let
me point out that  -  in
Avenel  - probably the
most vital bunch of
regular strong-hearted
guys, always following
process and decorum,
were the local firemen.
I'd get all those guys
in too for their
installation dinners,
new Chief programs,
fire-dept. explanatory
stuff, and flyers for
kids and fire safety
and all that. Program
books for the various
installation dinners
were a big deal. I
see all those guys,
from back then,
who were being 
installed for chief
and all that, all
beginning to die
off now  - their names
posted for a week
on the light board
outside the firehouse.
Maybe 35 years old
then, maybe 70 now.
Same boat I'm on,
but, whatever. The
firemen came in
a lot; I got to know
them. Chief Dwyer
was my closest
acquaintance of them,
and then he moved
to Tampa/St. Pete,
somewhere like that,
in Florida. I had
known his two boys
as we were growing
up together. Sometimes
these fire guys would
hang around and talk
some  -  engines,
whatever was going
on, elections and all.
We also did the voting
machine strips and
public question strips
and all that. A lot of
that was firehouse
stuff  -  public questions
about money for a
new fire truck, or a
new building or
whatever; those
guys mostly always
got their way. In the
same way as a Board 
of Education election 
or something, they 
could pretty much 
control the vote by 
dragging their own 
people out to be sure 
to cast yes votes. No 
one else seemed ever 
to give a damn,On 
Saturday mornings, 
that first Fall, 
sometimes I'd be 
so bored, reading a 
book or something  -  
I always had a 
notebook with me 
for writing as well  -  
and some line of 
people would pass 
by, noisily enough 
to be hard  -  back 
then there were a 
lot of Saturday 
morning organized 
walks for this or that  
-  fundraising, 
people'd pledge 
so much per mile 
walked or something 
like that  -  breast 
cancer, muscular 
dystrophy, cystic 
fibrosis, you name 
it. If there was a 
cause, they'd walk 
it. Light at the end 
of the tunnel stuff, 
except there was 
no light and there 
was no tunnel either. 
It was all just 'activity' 
and the blind good 
wishes of wanting to 
be seen doing something 
positive. Good for 
them; they needed 
it. After my New 
York years, all this often 
felt, for me, as if I'd 
been living on the 
dark side of the 
moon (yeah, Pink 
Floyd was big back 
then) and had somehow 
just come back over 
the horizon to this 
cheap, tacky, noisy, 
junkheap of a place 
wanting help and 
direction. The place, 
Avenel; not me. I'd 
never been subjected 
to a place of this sort, 
as an adult anyway. 
It was nothing like 
Elmira. Certainly 
nothing like Ithaca. 
Absolutely nothing 
like deep-country 
Pennsylvania, except 
maybe for Bruce Kelber, 
who acted like he was 
already there. Bruce 
had been a childhood 
friend too, then he 
turned into a 
wild-man fireman 
hero in town and 
was praised and
feted for saving 
some kid trapped 
in a fire or something.
Then he moved 
away somewhere. 
I never did catch 
up to him. I liked 
Bruce, he was like 
the Ted Nugent of 
the firehouse, and
early on. Usually 
all those guys were 
strait-laced and 
stern. Bruce was
cut, most certainly, 
from a different cloth.
And most certainly 
too, in Avenel it was 
the entire other side
of the diaper from 
New York City. This 
was all just a noise 
and a clamor without 
any reason or logic 
behind it. It was 
oftentimes just a
poor, sick 'Being.' 
The only thing 
that saved any 
of this for me was
 that, right after 
those Saturday hours,
 I'd get out of there 
and make a beeline 
for the train   -  I'd 
close up that place 
so quick you could 
hear a pin drop (?). 
You know what I 
mean. Fast, man, 
Get on the nearest 
train outta' town 
again. I had to dip 
that blood foot 
back into the city 
to get resuscitated. 
One more mother 
and daughter wedding 
patsy go-'round 
anyway I'd have 
probably become 
a mass murderer, 
starting with them. 
waiting for him. 
There was this other 
guy who always came 
in. Elderly, a little 
feeble, from Rahway, 
first block in off Rt. 
One, right by the old 
Deal In Wheels 
motorcycle shop. 
I forget his name 
too, but, another 
Spanish guy, with 
a constant attendant  
-  a big black dude 
who drove him 
around, waited, 
helped him walk 
up stairs and things. 
'Mr. Martinez', he 
was. But it wasn't 
pronounced 'Mar-teen-ez.' 
It had to be said fast, as 
Mr. MartinEZ.' with 
a rolling 'R' too. He 
made sure of that. He 
was ailing, walked 
slow and with some 
pain and some 
needed support. 
Talked funny too. 
There was a lot of 
that. No matter how 
bad things looked, 
if I, or anyone else, 
asked how he was 
doing, the answer 
was always the same  
-  he'd always say, 
'oh, oh, almost all right.' 
It was cool, and it was 
all he ever said. With 
a strange, elfish-like 
Spanish lilt. I walked 
him out to his car once, 
and that driver guy 
was sitting in it. I 
glimpsed the odometer 
once as I asked, 'how 
many miles on this 
baby?' It was an ancient 
Toyota. He said some 
high figure, like say 
230,000 miles -  a real 
lot for those days. I 
asked him how he 
managed that, what 
did he do special. He 
said that, as my reply, 
whenever he got where 
he was going, he never 
just quickly 'turned the 
car off.' He let it sit, 
run down a bit, 30-50 
seconds or so. And 
then he'd turn it off  
-  he claimed that 
procedure was the 
secret of the high 
mileage, nothing more. 
Letting the car-engine
slow down, letting 
the oil settle back in.
Mr. Martinez, by the 
way, ran some sort 
of mail-order 
catalogue thing, 
out of his home, 
in Rahway (a few 
times I'd go there, 
to him, when he 
was in too-bad 
shape to get out), 
and we'd print 
the little order 
sheets and things 
that he'd send out. 
He sold trinkets, 
little knick-knacks, 
small dolls and 
things like that. 
Tchotchke stuff, 
I guess it's called. 
He soon did eventually 
grow really ill, 
home-bound, with 
a nurse, and died. 
It's always so funny,
all these nurse/retainer 
people, as were his, 
were large, fulsomely 
huge, black people. 
I guess they were 
from some local 
agency or something, 
but it all had the 
weirdest appearance, 
like some wild form 
of twisted slavery 
or royalty or somesuch, 
but for really nothing 
at all. I never figured 
out who was paying 
for any of this, these 
services and all. 
Probably we were, 
as taxpayers. 
Another guy, crazy 
as shit, used to drive 
over from Staten Island. 
He had an enormous 
Plymouth station wagon,
like a 1974 or 76 Fury
wagon. He basically 
lived in it, was about 
350 pounds, stunk to 
high heaven, and was 
an avid CB ham radio 
guy, back in the day 
when that was a big 
deal  -  they, (these 
radio guys), would 
all get these ham 
radio call cards 
printed up, about 
4x6 inches, with 
their call letters 
and 'handle' (radio 
name and number, 
like 'Big Muddy78Y4' 
or 'Wise Cat914L' or 
'Tex281P' or whatever 
they called themselves). 
Then as they talked by
radio, or communicated 
on the road, driving 
around, as a contact 
they'd send each other, 
in the mail, these cards. 
He'd start telling me 
how he talked to some 
guy from Ghana, or 
Formosa, or other 
places. Why they 
used the mail is 
beyond me. This 
guy 's car was all 
hooked up with 
speakers and an
amplifier, a microphone 
even a siren. He'd come 
in maybe once or twice
a month for a supply 
of call cards or route 
maps, or whatever, I 
don't know how that 
all worked  -  just 
know that eventually 
the CB radio craze 
was over, out in  a 
flash. I don't know 
what these guys 
then did for kicks, 
without that. Anyway, 
the deal was, this 
moron would pull 
up and start beeping 
his horn. Five times 
or fifty times, until 
I came out. His horn 
was supposed to be 
my signal to know 
he was there and 
drop everything 
to go meet him. 
The car stunk. It 
was g-r-o-s-s. 
Every time. This 
porker never got 
out from behind 
the wheel, probably 
because he couldn't, 
without the jaws of 
life or something. 
I probably should 
have just spoken 
up, but I never did 
('What? You want 
me to enter this 
den of reek? Are 
you at last gonna' 
tip me?' Ever hear 
of air freshener, 
my friend. How's 
about a case of 
Febreeze? I can 
get you a good 
deal.')...I'd still 
almost barf, but I'd 
get the deal done, 
take my notes and 
his money, hand 
over the goods, and 
head for the shower-room, 
which St. George Press, 
alas, just did NOT have. 
The thing about these 
guys too, the CB system 
was an open microphone, 
nothing private about it. 
So, even as we talked 
there'd be these blaring 
voices of truck drivers 
and others bleating 
along about where 
they were and traffic 
and where could 
they stop for good 
eats and all that 
usual crud. It was 
nutso, and this guy 
was already out 
to pasture. I could 
see it if you were 
in, say, Indiana 
somewhere out on 
the open road. 
But St. George 
Avenue and Route
One and all, 
in Avenel?

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