Friday, December 30, 2016


284. AVENEL, Pt. 6
Somewhere along the
line things began shaking.
There was a TV show  -
I must have been very
young, I mean what
sounds here as stupidly
young, but it caught
my attention. It was
called Omnibus, and
past the title I didn't
know much else about
it  -  the names and the
personalities of the
show, Alastair Cooke,
Jonathan Winters, and
fifty others, meant
little to me at that age.
I learn now, as well,
that the show is, and
was then, considered a
groundbreaker and acted
as a forerunner of what
we now have as PBS.
I can't say, and I admit
to probably really
taking in only half
of whatever these
presentations gave
to me, but this
show riveted me
and from it I
grew a full
cross-section of
most every other
level of creative
or acted and
made up persona
that I saw. There
were singers,
dancers, storytellers,
comedians, artists,
writers, actors in
roles. There were
'historic' re-enactments
and dramatized
things. All over
the map, but it
acted as an early
school for me;
forget the rest. I
took from that a
large part of the
earliest patterning
still inside me.
Personal truth talks,
and the internalized
self holds all the
cards. Later on,
in something of
the same vein, All
one has to do is
not shy or run
from it, and
instead grab it
and work with it
and learn to read
it all. That's
Natural Religion,
the real thing.
If you think it
was easy finding
a way to watch
this stuff in my
house, think again.
It was baffling,
in fact. I was way
too young, couldn't
possibly understand,
and probably
wanted to watch
cartoons instead,
right? Or at least
that's  how the
thinking went.
Later, in the same
vein, copy-cat
fashion, as TV
does, there came
Steve Allen  -
another one I
tried to watch
when I could. He
had really cool
people on and
the words always
spoke to me. I can
remember seeing
Jack Kerouac on
there, as a scardy-cat,
drunken, cut-up
guy just trying to
get through some
'broadcast' he didn't
understand. He
read a bit from
his book, but he
was frozen and
it was stilted. Steve
Allen himself,
annoyingly plinking
away while he talked,
on a piano in some
basic, note-by-note
inflected jazzy blues
riff of his own,
seemed to get
in the way, more
than anything,
and I sensed
ridicule, I sensed
a circus animal
being held up
for inspection,
Kerouac. What it
meant, I didn't
know, but it
stayed with me
forever. Later on
came other shows
-  stuff of the outside
world, other places,
where people acted,
did things, got
involved in real
 messes. Route 66.
Naked City. My
mind raced over
everything. I was
caught and I was
trapped. Nothing
normal ever seemed
to have any
abiding interest
for me.
So, as it went, 
being back, at St. 
George Press, 20 
or so years later, 
whatever it was, 
after a ton of 
adventures and 
other places and 
things I was still 
living down, I 
had to make it 
really mean 
something to 
me or all of this, 
I realized, could
just crumble and 
be a real sham and
I'd simply end up 
as a waste of time. 
I just always carried 
everything with me. 
Once I got established 
in St. George Press, 
one of my regular 
became the Barron 
Arts Center. Perfectly 
enough. This was an 
old town building, 
wonderfully stylised; 
Richardson or 
someone architectural 
and famous had built 
it for one of the early 
Woodbridge rich guys, 
as a library, his own.
It looked like a church, 
sort of. But it wasn't 
 -  rather it was just 
a really perfectly-done 
little specimen of 
'important' domestic 
architecture. The 
town had taken it 
over and, in one 
of those ubiquitous 
searches these 
local governments 
do, with tax money, 
had decided to have 
a cultural and arts 
commission and 
pump in a lot of 
money into 
refurbishing this 
place as a 
center. They hadn't 
a clue. Previous to 
this it had been 
a children's library, 
wasting away  -  
story times, 
festivals, nursery 
rhyme days, etc. 
Easter Bunny and
the rest. Good 
riddance to that. 
They closed it up 
and re-opened as 
the Barron Arts 
Center, and hired 
a few females, the 
gentle, poetry sorts, 
to come up with 
a program, 
something to 
keep this vibrant 
and flowing. I had 
already begun doing 
their early printing, 
and working with 
them  -  shows of 
artisinal ceramics 
and pottery, a show 
of Americana, one 
of stamps and 
postcards, all 
the usual stuff. A 
few local 
type local artists, 
the kind who bleed 
still-lives and floral 
arrangements and 
'landscapes' of 
Pennsylvania or 
whatever, onto 
nicely framed 
canvas. So, they 
thought of me 
as someone perhaps 
interested in helping
with this scheme. 
One day we were 
talking  -  Edie Eustace, 
Susan Crotty, and 
another girl whose 
name, right now, 
escapes me but I 
wish it didn't because 
she has one of the 
stranger roles here 
to portray. Maybe 
it'll come. We worked 
out an idea for 'Poetry' 
readings  -  open 
microphone, let anyone 
in who wished, sign 
them on a list, have 
readings, in sequence, 
no real rules except 
the usual  -  gross 
profanity (this was 
way before rap music), 
none of, or not too 
much of that 
and wide-open sex 
crap, offensive or 
bleating anguish 
stuff. We didn't 
wish to lay down 
rules or single 
people out. Junk 
is junk, and it's 
usually quite apparent 
on its own. If the 
township dudes got 
wind of something, 
and found it wrong 
or bad, it would 
probably have 
already passed our 
supposed censoring 
anyway. Once you
get mixed up with 
'civic' stuff, the 
entire equation 
gets changed. Beware.
Two complete and
different sets of 
parameters; so who 
cared. We decided
 to hold this each 
month, on the second 
Weds., 7:30, I think it 
was, and they ran to 
maybe midnight  -  
wine and crumpets, 
whatever. More on 
all this later, but first  
-  for me and my
'business 'vitality', 
it worked fine  -  
generated printing, 
billable to the town 
budget, paid usually 
on time, everybody 
happy. It's funny 
how towns work, 
with money. 
Everything had 
to get a voucher, 
be approved, plans 
examined. The 
extended budget 
was always under 
some scrutiny. 
Things had to 
pass muster and 
no one could just 
go out and purchase 
anything, on a whim  
-  the Arts Council 
people I mean. It 
took at least a 
month to get things
through. And then 
payment was slow 
as well. Whatever. 
It seemed completely 
different from the
 usual graft and 
corruption of getting 
your hand into the 
roads and sewer 
contracts and hidden 
zoning variances 
and stuff by which 
the big guys made 
their dough. I don't 
remember, this was 
maybe 1980. Got 
it rolling, and it 
really took off 
nicely. Before 
too long, I was 
over my head 
in stuff to do. This 
went on for over 
three years, getting 
stronger all the 
time. We did 
recitations, dramatc 
readings, any number 
of things, in addition 
to the poetry nights. 
Everything was still 
quite primitive then, 
no computer or 
even video hook-ups. 
so anything we did 
was done once, and 
dissolved away to 
memory. W'd get 
about 30-40 people, 
same and different, 
on a steady basis. 
Not just Woodbridge 
people  -  there were 
those wo came from 
20 miles or so for 
these things. Martta 
Rose, from West 
Orange. (I think 
she later 'became' 
a band also, fronting 
her name). Hunterdon 
County people; it 
was all over the place. 
Sometimes there 
was music involved
 as well. I did't know 
much, but thought 
fast and worked well 
on my feet and soon 
had it pretty mastered, 
handling and goading 
the crowd, introducing 
things and people, 
working all month 
on format, for that 
one night. That girl 
who name I just 
recalled (but am 
not going to use 
here, in case she's 
still around), she 
had a problem life 
going on, and she'd 
come to see me at 
St. George Press, 
in tears sometimes, 
when she needed to 
'chill' or let her 
emotions calm 
down, or just cry. 
It was a sad scene, 
and I often really 
did want to just reach
out and help her. 
But nothing, back
then, ever came forth  
-  things were different, 
no one really knew 
how to handle this 
stuff. Evidently she 
had an abusive boss, 
to her and to other 
girls in the office 
as well, and every 
time he had a go at
her she'd flee, and 
somehow end up
running to me, sitting 
 in my little office, calming 
down under the pretense 
of getting some printing.
Door open; don't get any 
ideas. In tears, usually  
-  'he grabbed me,' 
'he pulled my shirt 
up,' etc. I only got 
half the story, I'm 
sure; but I never 
called the cops or 
anything, and she 
never did either, 
nor wished to. She 
was shit-scared, 
for her job, and 
for the future 
reprecussions if
she did anything. 
So, I didn't remember 
what happened, 
but she disappeared, 
and was soon gone.
Tough scene. It's funny
too, and this is real  -
people used to ask me what
printing was about, my 
job etc., and I'd answer, 
'Oh, it's a bunch of things, 
part listening, part talking, 
part business, part social 
work. You just really
have to listen for the
things unsaid as much as 
to what's said.' They used
to think that amazing, or
say 'I've never heard it put
that way, wow.' but it 
really was true.

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