Tuesday, January 10, 2017


One fast thing I
did learn was not
to dwell. They key
to operation was to
move swiftly  - if
at all possible, dot
every 'i' and close
every case, but
move along. You
know that old phrase
about a 'one trick
pony'  -  it's got an
equivalent in people
too: the old cadger
who can't move
off-center from
the same old stuff
every time you
see him. The old
war guy, with the
same crappy story
about some heroics,
every time. The
bum in the street
with the placard -
'the End is Near!'
Makes you wish it
was. The first
thing that goes
out the window
is effectiveness.
I found that the
more I wanted
NOT to believe,
the more I always
ended up believing
- in God. A very
special God, but
God nonetheless.
Not the God inside
all of those hundred
churches I'd pass.
They seemed
and for all I
knew each held
their own separate
sacred to their
own laps and
pews and clientele.
I didn't mean that
one -  Mine was the
out side of things
and place. It had
not yet invented
the concept of
'walls'. Whatever
that may have
been, it was mine.
I met lots of
people, with
numerous and
different variations
on their shades of
'religion.' All still
lost and locked.
It didn't matter
to me. The weirdest
NYCity guy I ever
met was that
Fischbein guy,
'Negotiator For
as his card read.
He was a trip  -
and I've already
told the story so
I won't go and do
it again. Yet. Suffice
it to say that, through
him, I did meet two
real extra-terrestrials.
Life-changing stuff.
Everybody's got a
God. Yes sirree Bob.
At New Jersey Appellate,
way before all this,
we used to get  -
because our printing
racket there was all
legal and court stuff
-  the subscription
deliveries of a
few interesting
(but boring as
all get out too)
publications that
always fascinated
me. I never knew
why, but they did
-  the 'Journal of
Commerce', which
was a sort of NYCity
legal compendium
of trades and
balances, status
and current lawsuits
and things, of
thousands of
companies, as
listed and profiled;
another one called,
I think, just 'Shipping
News,' which was
an enormous log
of all ships and
freight and cargo
and cruises due
in or out of the
various docks
along New York's
and New Jersey's
piers and waterfronts
-  tonnage, times
of arrivals or
departures expected,
carrying capacity,
available space
left for outgoing,
personnel and captains
and all, etc.; and,
lastly, as I also
can recall, the
'New Jersey Law
Journal,' which I
think came out of
Hackensack or
Newark, maybe
Trenton, I forget,
and of course, in
its purview covered
all or as much of
New Jersey's legal
activity as it could
-  cases upcoming,
docket numbers,
locations, courtroom
expectations, attorneys
involved, legal issues,
steps to be taken,
expected arguments
and speakers and
lots more. Totally
fascinating  -  a
person, if really,
really crazy about
this stuff, could
probably schedule
a life around going
to court cases,
hearing arguments,
watching ships
coming and
going, knowing
who's on board
to sail to LeHavre
or Liverpool,
whatever. There
used to be things
I'd buy, up in
Nyack, at some
little crazy
bookstore there,
called the
Guide'  -  sort
of the same thing,
but for trains.
There were
crazy cases back
then, guys who'd
go Dubuque or
Cleveland just
to see, witness,
or photograph, a
particular train,
the DD40, say,
running the Ohio
Corridor that June, or
the Helm-Boiler-Honey,
some huge black
train that ran the
Colorado mountain
passes. It was all
like that  -  trains,
law, boats, and
the rest.
It was funny,
about me. Ideas
would sweep
right through
me; things of
which I was doing
or caught up in,
would take me
over. Take NJ
Appellate: there
was a month or
so there that all
I wanted to do,
mainly because of
it, was be a lawyer.
Yes, completely
ridiculous, but I
checked everything
out, options, what
was needed, etc.
The Law School
at Rutgers, fortunately,
became my undoing  -
doing a lot of the
printing for the school
there, and delivering
it, I got a good look
at those kids who
were there, all their
fussy, nit-picky
ways and outlooks,
and it just hit me
-  no way Jose.
Same thing
happened, after
the seminary,
briefly, about
wanting to
'convert' to
being Jewish.
I suppose if
I'd done jail
time, I'd
have wanted
to become a
jailer, or if I 'd
met a bus driver,
maybe that.
Who knows.
Too bad I
never met
a gigolo.
One guy I did
meet, through
St. George Press,
was a local
publisher, a
real singular and
courageous guy,
until the end,
when he'd gotten
a bit soft and
wimpy, and
comfortable too
with all the local
big-deal cronies.
There was a time
when he'd have
ripped all those
guys up, in print,
but by the end
he'd rolled over.
Anyway, his name
was Larry Campion.
His paper was
the weekly
'Independent Leader.'
And it was, too.
His building and
press plant and
typography offices
were right there
by Woodbridge Oldsmobile
and that tavern I
wrote about in the
previous chapter  -
one building over,
off Rahway Ave, and
on Green Street, I
guess it's called. It's
all gone now, all, no
trace. As is my friend's
Paul's grandfather's
shoe-repair shop
which used to be
there. It's all now
a Quick-Chek and
a cruddy parking,
and near to it is yet
another closed
down big bar,
crossed, at the
street, by some
ridiculous Walgreens
and the train station.
You'd never think
much of this
situation  -  small
town newspaper,
a weekly. But Larry
had made all this
into some sort of
real county-wide
force. New Brunswick,
and even Trenton,
was where he went
for all the dirt. The
local town halls
and meetings too.
He had one or two
cub-reporter types
he'd send around.
They'd gather info,
send him back
the germ of a
story, and he'd
do the rest. He
had the connections,
and he really did
know the stuff,
from the inside-out.
I think it was later
on, his daughter took
over, I'm not sure,
and then it was gone
Big relief to the
'town fathers', who
mostly specialized
in promiscuity and
breach-births anyway.
Larry had a grasp on
all the shady deals
that were going on
-  he'd say stuff like,
'Don't listen to them,
that's just what story
they're saying or
putting out, for
the little people.
They believe
and they eat it
all up, if it's done
right. They knew
all about this 5
years ago when
it was paper-plans,
in the beginning
stages : what land
to buy, who was
holding, how
high the break
was. They even
knew who was
going to say no,
and what they'd
need to do to
break his opposition.
If you ever need
to find an honest
man, don't look
in the town halls,
here, or anywhere.
They wouldn't be
in place right now
if they weren't
getting piles-full
of money.' And
then he'd start
with names and
whats and hows.
Fascinating stuff.
I always felt
beholden to
secrecy, mainly
for his sake  -
bullet in the brain
kind of stuff.
Larry was a
keeper. He
knew the
meetings, and
who gaveled
what, who had
this or that buried,
and what this or
that really cost,
and was still
really costing
and who was
on the take  -
or most rather,
who wasn't. It
always amazed
me  -  things
like paving a
lot, or
updating some
old township
truck shed or
something  -
$650,000 for
like a $15,000
job, if done
And then all
the overlapping
names  -  the
paving company
and the roofer,
always had
something to
do with someone's
last name or family
or in-laws. Purchase
contracts and
dollar deals  -
police cars,
tow trucks,
plowing. He
was amazing.
The Independent
Leader, as well,
covered all that
low-down crappy
local stuff  -  high
school sports teams
and sports-decisions
and conferences,
schedules, colleges
and local prospects,
weddings, funerals,
movie listings,
etc. Right down
to the most silly
Elks bake-off
or bowling league.
(The Elks had
a women's
bowling league,
a few teams
of wives and
daughters and
girlfriends too,
which called
themselves the
'Two Lips' League.
Wasn't that cute.
I always immediately
thought of something
else when I saw
that, but I ain't
telling about it
now). Larry would
scoff, laugh and
say something
about 'getting
the bills paid too.'
By the time I got
to Saint George
Press, some years
later, Larry was
still around and
was now on
top of the
entire election
machine ballot
business. I
worked with
 him on these,
two or three
elections a year
-  big elections
and the small,
April ones,
primaries and
budget questions
and things.
The old kind
of mechanical
voting machines
would get this
long strip of a
heavy card
stock, something
like 3/4 of an
inch by 14 inches,
Each candidate,
by name and
all that, had
to be printed
and it got slid
into the
slot then, at
the voting
in Roosevelt
Park. And then
the machines
were trucked
out, all loaded,
to whatever
voting locations
they went too.
It was tedious
printing, real
crap. Budget
for new fire
up-datings, etc.
(all these local
people were
hog-wild for stuff).
Larry was good,
detail oriented,
knew all the
things necessary
- and all the
while he'd rattle 
on to me, almost 
non-stop, about 
something he'd
'just found out,' 
or an issue that 
was 'getting 
buried.' It was 
some great times, 
to put it awkwardly, 
and I don't think 
they make them 
like Larry Campion 
anymore. Sometimes,
I admit, I wish he 
was even tougher, 
or I wish he'd 
had offered me 
a job  -  I would 
have jumped at 
the chance to 
be all he wasn't. 
Anyway, that's 
all gone now, 
that whole street 
and corridor, 
and replaced 
with a bunch 
of junk. Larry's 
long dead, and 
I don't know 
where they 
stuck him. 
Only two other 
local notables 
I ever met came 
even close to 
him : a real 
pain in the butt 
local historian 
(I think she was 
also a teacher 
around, in one
 of the high 
schools) named 
Ruth Wolk  -  
a real crusty 
piece of burnt 
toast, gung-ho 
booster, American 
Legion essay 
contests, and 
Vietnam War 
stuff; and a guy, 
from Perth Amboy, 
constantly running 
for something, 
anything, (always 
losing), and always 
in attendance at 
the Perth Amboy 
Council meetings 
and such that I 
had to attend to 
cover for the 
Star-Ledger, as 
a stringer. 
Bill George. 
Ruth is dead; 
not sure about 
Bill George; 
last I remember, 
about 1998, he'd 
gotten hit by a 
car somewhere 
along Amboy 
Avenue. Since 
then, I just don't 
know -  but 
he'd be getting 
a'pretty old too, 
by now. One last
thing  -  being a 
voting machine insider, 
so to speak, as I was, 
always wanted to go
in to one of those 
machines, at my own 
voting place, pull the 
drawstring curtain (they 
had them then, for privacy 
as you voted, and pull out 
of my pants-leg a hidden 
one of those question strips 
- typed up with completely
ridiculous questions
instead, or even just 
gibberish, a close to-the-real 
question, with like the figure 
of $10 instead of $380, 541.00 
for something, and slide it 
in, in place of the right one, 
which I'd leave with. I was 
always willing to bet no one 
would even have noticed, and 
we'd have passed some
crazy new approvals.

No comments: