Friday, December 30, 2016


283. AVENEL, Pt. 5
'nice fit'
Combinations of hundreds 
of things made this place 
what it was  -  from a
bicycle kingdom for boys
to a swaddling collection 
of religions and buildings. 
Down across Route One
was the old B'nai Israel
synagogue, and on Avenel
Street the two mainline 
churches, sort of always
vying with each other. 
Clubs and activities for 
kids, dances, competing 
Boy Scout troops and 
the rest. The Presbyterian
Boy Scout troop, they were
the real guys. Troop 42, I
think it was  -  intrepid
cold-weather campers, 
brawlers, adept fire-starters
and merit badge elite. By
contrast, the later, Catholic,
Troop 73, were a bunch of
pasty wimps, challenged
even by knot-tying. In
the Boy Scout handbook 
there were 30 different
types of knots, maritime
knots, wilderness knots,
and the rest, you were
supposed to know, and
master. I got maybe 
three of them straight, 
ever  -  and every other
one that failed I'd gleefully
call a 'slip-knot'. Successfully
done. What did I care? You
know how it's said, about 
school, 'what do I need to
know all that Math for?'
That's how I viewed knots.
No future utility except,
perhaps, for bondage, but
I had no intention of going
there. The (we) catholic 
kids were flagrant violators  
- goofing off, hanging 
about, doing little or 
nothing at all. Catholic 
kids were brought
up to worry about all 
the other stuff, the 
things that, somehow, 
Boy Scouts never taught 
or even worried about: 
Salvation, guilt, darkness, 
sin, regret. It was crazy. 
They had no business 
at all even starting
a Boy Scout troop. 
At St. George Press I 
got a good little perch 
from which to view 
the town around me. 
It was a decent job, 
with some prestige. 
I got to meet a lot of 
Woodbridge people, 
deal with some of the 
big guys, the newspapers, 
the political doers, and 
hacks. I was still nobody,
just me, working for 
wages, and trying to 
remain one step off of 
center stage  -  which
was easy. Against my 
will, I got to learn 
about business, bills,
accounts payables, 
profit margins, 
collectibles, loans
and pay-backs, the
wholesale paper-buying
of the printing-trades, 
inks and colors, grades 
of paper and printing
stocks, bindings, 
mark-ups, discounting,
shipping... It was all
crazy, There was
one time  -  I remember 
it well  -  I'd just bought
a new car, a 1985, and
the purchase price was
18,600 dollars  - a 
massive sum for me 
then, for a car anyway.
I had these 5-rooms of
losers at some office
on Mayfield Drive in
Raritan Center  -  they
churned through 
printing like water, 
sold to others as 
brokers, and were 
always nagging me 
for 'cheap, cheap, 
and cheaper'. 
That was their motto.
It was the October 
end of our fiscal 
year and I was owed 
something like $39,000 
by these Heeb jackals. 
(I hated dealing with 
this crew). They were
living way high off 
my money. We'd do 
the work, the printing,
and sell it to them for, 
say, $100, and  -  true
to form  -  by doing
absolutely nothing 
at all except some 
bullshit and phone 
calls, they'd charge 
their customer, 
in turn, say $210. 
Seriously. Rapacious 
on their their part, 
by using us as a 
bank. Never paying 
up. This one time the
strategy was for me 
to just go there, make 
a scene, rattle their 
stupid asses, and get 
some money, if not 
all (which we knew
they didn't have). They
were slowly going
insolvent. I did my
part, and this head 
honcho there  -  a big,
bloviating heap, named
Joel Greene, he finally
forked over a check for
$18,600. Exactly the 
price of the car I'd
just bought. It was
weird. I raced back 
to the office and we 
banked that money in
about five seconds.
Thank God it didn't
That was a big 
lesson  -  these jackals 
drove around in Jaguars 
and new Audis and 
things  -  fancy suits,
pinky rings, Yankee 
Stadium season box 
tickets to entertain
clients, for a couple 
of years they even 
extended out some 
Super Bowl tickets, 
New Orleans one year,
and Atlanta, I think, 
the next. Lodgings, 
dining, the whole bit, 
for a few of their 
premier accounts. 
It was all based on 
nothing but talk, 
and we knew that.
We'd all make fun 
of them behind 
their backs  -  their 
ways and means 
were so patently 
ridiculous, you 
had to. Loud, frothy
egomaniacs, these 
guys. It all worked 
out, over 8 years 
maybe, then they 
all splintered up, 
went broke, and 
made their own 
separate, smaller 
companies. A real 
racket. I handled 
so much money  
- the billings, the 
money-owed, and 
all that, through 
them, that if I 
had run with it 
I could have 
bought a small 
African country. 
Once again, I saw 
the beast of what
'Business' really is, 
from their dirty 
underside. It was 
good  -  it made 
me always glad, 
always, to be a 
faraway outsider 
to all that crud. I
realized I'd rather
dig ditches than 
have to deal with 
such slime.
From inside St. 
George Press, 
everything looked
different. I look 
out at St. George 
Avenue  -  all that 
crazy, thrumming
traffic rolling by. 
Everything from 
mail trucks to ice 
cream trucks and 
all in-between.
Eskimo pies, over 
next door, at the 
7-11. Along the
street, nearly every
day, I'd see a couple
of the same people :
a man and a woman,
always walking 
together, close and
tight, and determined.
No one ever knew 
their situation, 
whether homeless 
or indigent or 
what; but in 
every weather, 
with some bags 
and a suitcase, 
they be walking 
around, to or 
from somewhere, 
but never getting  
anywhere  -  they 
were neither 
friendly nor 
congenial, and 
just sought to 
be left alone. 
I had an old 
grade school 
chum who was 
'around the bend' 
now, as they say. 
Peter Marschak;
he'd just be, also, 
fast walking around, 
staring only straight 
ahead, eyes blazing. 
Never knew where 
he was headed 
either, but he was 
always on the 
fast-walk somewhere. 
Another grade-school 
pal, Ken Lackowitz, 
sort of crazed and 
shell-shocked out 
of Vietnam, was 
just always trouncing 
around, in his own 
little world, on a 
bicycle. Every day, 
it seemed, I always 
wished to connect, 
or re-connect, with 
these folks, see if 
I could help, whatever,
but I never did  -  
except for Ken, whom 
I did meet years later 
on the wharf in 
Perth Amboy. He 
was much improved, 
counseled and 
brought back, 
looked good, had 
a new truck, 
fishing trips, etc. 
We had a beer 
or two, and saw 
each other off.
Nice fit.

Remember those guys I
mentioned, the Raritan 
Center bunch? For a while
one of the connections I 
had, through printing with
 them, was the office of Air 
France, the carrier, in NYCity. 
It was like the French National 
Airline or somesuch. Every so
often, to 'service' the account, etc.
and because of the volume, I'd 
hop in our company car and
deliver to NYC, their offices
along the Avenue. I'd get to
meet faces that had just 
been phone voices, deliver 
the goods, and all that. They 
weren't, per se, 'my' client, but 
it made no difference to them 
and they just thought we 
were all the same bunch.
New York City deliveries were
always a logistical nightmare.
This time I parked on
the street, in the 40's, where
I'd found a decent spot, and 
planned, with a hand cart,
on making two or three trips
to the elevators, some five blocks 
away. Coming back from the
first trip, I saw envelopes and 
letterheads blowing all over the
street. Hmmm, they sure look
familiar. Oh no! They're mine.
While I was away, some peering 
eyes had seen the boxes in the 
rear, figured perhaps they were 
something valuable, popped out 
the vent window on the Oldsmobile 
wagon (it was lying on the front 
seat) and, seeing the valuelessness 
to them of mere printed paper, just 
thrown the stuff all around. What a 
mess, and a quirky problem too. 
Crafty thieves. I gathered up 
whatever I could, popped the vent 
window back into place, found a
dumpster to dump it all, drove 
out of there, called Air France later, 
saying there'd been an interruption 
and I'd be returning with the rest
in a few days. I got to the office 
later that afternoon, and real 
nonchalantly said (when asked)  that 
they'd liked everything, in fact 
liked it so much they'd re-ordered 
already! (Scam alert). I thereby did 
eventually fulfill the order, arrange
the UPS delivery (as I should 
have done before), and simply 
'buried' the new order, paperwork, 
and billling, with no one the wiser.  
Tough life, that business world  
-  one has to learn how to pivot, and 
think on one's feet.  Hey! I was 
getting to be just like them!

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