Wednesday, December 28, 2016


281. AVENEL, pt. 3
There wasn't ever much
of a landscape in Avenel;
just a fairly marshy, flat
'13 feet above sea level
regret,' I always called it.
Down at the water's edge,
by the old docks and boat
areas of Sewaren and
Port Reading and Carteret,
and over to Perth Amboy,
it was actually pretty cool.
A lot of history, to which
no one much spoke anymore.
It was no longer common
knowledge, because all
the 'originals' were gone,
and the rest of all the
newcomers were,
obviously, from
somewhere else and
paid no mind to any
'past' supposed to be
around here. So, it
all went away, and,
anyhow, newcomers
never concern themselves
with the past. It all
becomes utilitarianism
for them. 'The reason
I'm here is for the future.'
One guy who kept coming
in, Saturday after Saturday,
to these St. George Press
Saturday business hours,
was the tough-ass punk
style Brooklyn transplant
(more like Staten Island,
I always thought), who
was engaged just then
in putting the final
touches on his new
business in the old
A&W Root-Beer
Drive-In stand, just
down the street.
He was calling it
'Pizza-Time'. The
logo was of some
round little pizza
guy twirling a pie
or something, and
winking. I don't even
know if they still use
that original logo. I
swore the guy would
be out of business
in three months  -
thirty-five years
later, he's still there,
or it is anyway. He'd
come in each
mid-morning Saturday
-  nicest guy in the
world, maybe 28 or
30 years old, tops.
He'd have all his
menu ideas and prices
and formats all laid
out, we'd go over
things, talk about
stuff, make a zillion
copies of various
items. I'd glom him
free copies and things
from the copy machine,
he'd trade me off a
pizza for later pickup,
stuff like that. He
always had on a red
and white striped
guy type outfit,
even sometimes
a cap. It was funny.
You could smell
the ovens and the
pizza reeking off
the clothing. I'd
never met a real
'pizza' professional
before, even in NYC,
and this guy claimed
real Brooklyn authenticity
-  hundred year old
recipes, family stuff.
I don't know what
was true and what
wasn't. I'd never
heard of half the
stuff   -   garlic knots,
Italian named stuff
I wasn't sure of. Fish
or fowl often meant
fish or 'foul' to me.
Once he got the
business rolling,
everything changed
again, slightly so,
which meant another
go-round of printing.
He always paid,
right there. At first
I was a little leery
of him, having always
been told that pizza
joints had mob
connections, hot
money, payoffs
and that they
smuggled people
in from the 'Mother
Country' to man
the ovens and
stuff and then
sneak into the
country. At about
the same time, a
little later maybe,
on Avenel Street,
another guy opened
a place called
Domenic's  -  a
real Italian Restaurant,
with high-end prices,
glass, crystalware,
table-clothes, all
that. Big-time for
Avenel. He too
kept coming in  -
weekdays too. He
had an entirely
different approach
to things from the
Pizza Time guy  -
class and reserve,
fine dining,
ingredients, and
all that. For me,
it quickly became
strange  -  to see
the different ends
of the local food
spectrum begin to
fall into place  -
and in between,
right across the
street, they began
building a Denny's,
with things like
eggs and coffee
for 99 cents, sausage,
10 cents more. Very
weird. I'd always
figured this little
piss-ass dump-town
to be a hot-dog
stand kind of place,
and all of a sudden
the Ritz was moving
in, and along with
it every other level
of 'cuisine.' Strange
stuff. Also across
the street was a
one room bar, there
from forever, called
the 'Blue Bird.' It
was a shot and a
beer place, no
windows, kind
of foreboding
looking. Bikers,
heavy drinkers,
daytime drunks.
A small parking
lot with cars askew.
Nobody ever knew
what was up. About
1980 too, the owner
of that joint had it
torn down and he
built a sumptuous,
multi-level dining
palace, named
after himself. It
was really faux-fancy
-  a lot of glass and
shiny metal, staircases,
piped in music, people
eating fancy stuff. It
lasted about 2 years.
Now it's a landscape
and garden center  -
always busy, just
not food. Up the
street too, by the
Route One light
and (ahem!) next
to the firehouse was
a strip-joint called
Nardone's. Go-go
bar stuff, as it was
then called, adjacent
to a zillion roadside,
flophouse motels too.
Down on St. George
Avenue, a mere
stone's throw, was
another one, called
RJ's. For Roger Jennings,
the owner. He'd come
in to the print shop too,
often enough. Weirdly,
he was a regular business
dude, all those in-town
Kiwanis guy connections,
like he was selling shoes
and had a shoe-store or
or something instead
of a half-naked,
running-bare pole-dancing
babes place, with booze
and enough illicit activity
to float a charnel house.
Also, in Avenel there
were about 40 hot-sheet
motels, well 10 anyway.
One of them, the Post
Road Inn, was a steady
customer. Nice guy,
single, solo dude,
natty, reserved, over
next to Hiram's Trailer
Park. I did printing for
all these places, and
more. It was funny
to see how 'business'
just sort of made
everything clinical
and all right. Like
'Murder, Inc.' bring
OK because it was 
legit by name and title.
This was all about
the same time, 1979,
etc., that President
Carter had just
turned over the
Panama Canal,
after great, anguished
debate, to the
themselves. People
were pissed at that.
He never really got
over it, and then the
hostage thing with
the Iranians and
Reagan and all
just reduced him
to rubble. Bye bye,
President Carter.
All that was in my
first half-year  there,
at St. George Press.
I used to have to
park across the street,
alongside the Blue
Bird, actually, next
to some crazy
laundromat and
the weeded lot
where they soon
built Denny's  -
the St. George Press
parking lot was
being upgraded,
and the building
itself, as well, was
being expanded,
rebuilt, and
completely changed.
There were at least
6 months of real
turmoil and uprooting,
but then it all settled
in. In any case, my
first 6 or so months
there came right in
the middle of all this,
so my initial learning
of the process was 
mostly all in the 'new' 
space. Which was 
good because before 
that it had really only 
been an old farmhouse
taken over and re-worked
into print-shop work-space. 
Doors here and there, 
rooms off to the left and 
off to the right. The newer 
layout, when completed, 
was expanded, way 
more commercial in 
its utility and layout, 
and there was even a
'professional' building 
next door, attached, 
with tenants. One of 
them was the advertising 
agency for all the local 
car dealerships up and 
down Rt One, Edison 
to Linden, at least. 
Tons of ads and 
newspaper work, 
printing, flyers, etc.
St. George Press had
soon bought the whole 
operation and merged 
it, calling it, as a 
subsidiary, 'St. 
George Advertising 
Associates.' So all 
of a sudden now 
we had all that sort 
of 'captive' work 
under our wing too. 
Very busy, and about 
8 new people hired. 
These car guys, 
dealership owners, 
and advertising 
people were a whole 
other trip. Fancy, suits, 
rings, diamonds  - 
you'd think they were 
serving the Queen. 
All for cars; selling 
cars on time-extended 
layaway. And not 
even layaway, just 
loan-payments. How 
crazy. Used cars, trade-ins, 
new cars, fleets, trucks, 
and the rest. Everything 
was half-bullshit. Sansone, 
Ray Catena, those guys, 
with their admen, (I'm
not disclosing any 
names, because one 
or two of them are 
still around and doing 
business) literally,
used to fly around 
over NE Pennsylvania, 
looking at, from the air, 
properties to buy. Half 
their mind was in 
real estate investment. 
It was pretty disgusting. 
They'd be selling shyster 
car-deals on the one hand, 
and with the other flying 
planes and helicopters, 
with their lawyers and 
investors and stuff  -  and
the ad men too  -  selecting 
future property buys. Need 
I say, to wreck the place 
for others there, at some 
future date  -  highways, 
homes and housing 
developments, strip malls  - 
 and , of course, eventually 
highway car dealerships. 
Theirs. They were so 
good at that. I was 
totally amazed, 
and all of this gave 
me a good, 18-year 
look into the seamy, 
back underside of 
the way American
 'Business' ran things  -  
remember all those 
Kiwanis fatcats I 
mentioned in the 
previous chapter? 
Yeah, that stuff. It 
was amazing. I lost 
all my faith, completely, 
in any high and lofty
'ideals' about American 
'Constitutional' concepts. 
It was all sleazeball, 
underhanded ruination.
All I ever learned from 
working in business was 
that business was for real 
jerks. Up in Bayonne, 
I had an uncle with a 
big-time, successful 
dry cleaning business. 
He was there for years 
(33rd and B'way, called 
'McCarthy Cleaners'), 
and made a ton of dough 
(shoulda' been a baker?) 
from it, had a few houses, 
and knew Bayonne like 
a Mayor knows his town. 
Once or twice he'd drag
me in and start fitting 
me and handing over 
to me all these business
'slacks' and clothes that 
had been left behind, 
abandoned, never 
picked up. Anything 
my size, was mine.
It was cool, but I 
was never really 
into business clothes, 
all that serious fabric 
and creases and cuffs
and all. He prospered, 
and got along well in 
town there. I always 
wanted to ask him 
the hows and whys 
of what he did, but
the moment never

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