Thursday, July 26, 2012

Taking a ride in Jersey

You can listen for as long as you please, there's no train whistle gonna blow in the distance. Reminding you of lost love or somesuch. No white horses to be seen galloping across lush pastures under a full moon. You won't find some old wise avuncular black man playing a guitar and talking the blues. Sitting on the porch of a Hollywood-style railroad shack with a mangy cur at his feet. In his effin rocking chair. There's no good-looking bucknaked couple strolling through a fern garden on their way to a shady glen avec waterfall. Not here. Hell, there aren't even advertisements for that shite here.

We may have got ourselves open-pit fires and private wells but there are no hot rods, no flaming decals, no surfer chicks promenading down the boardwalk as surfer dudes whistle at 'em. That shite's antique. Sure, there are a few pockets of innocents living around here who talk as though those things still exist. They're pretty pathetic, though -- writing ditties in their little notebooks, staging pageants out in the barn, holding weekend lawn sales and exchanging curios and cookie tins. Some of them even try to make things with their hands. Doilies, oven mitts, ski caps. Very touching.

You look at all their shite spread out in the twilight and it's the color of rust. Let somebody else recite an ode to bygone mundanity. I'm finding it hard to breathe around here. I took a bike ride the other day -- some twisty country road with rich peoples' homes set back into the hills on either side -- and wound up at some colonial restoration, funded by an effin bank. Two red-faced women were kneading dough on a wooden farm table in front of a working beehive oven. They were sweating in their authentic aprons, bonnets, and wooden shoes. Big deal. Out back some guy dressed in pantaloons was splitting logs. Every so often he'd turn around and ask the onlookers, "Anyone got a question?" His face looked like one of them waxen things they've got on display at Madame Tussaud's -- that tourist rip-off in Times Square. I thought to myself, geez, it costs a lot of psychic energy to be entertaining these days. Effin realism takes its toll, doesn't it, poot?

The Garden State -- who knows whether to laugh or cry? I came here too late like some character out of an Edward Arlington Robinson poem. Now the effin bees are gone -- you won't hear no buzzing in the St. John's Wort. Who the hell knows where they went? Maybe Pennsylvania. Same with the bats, the crows, and those little coppery fish that used to dart under the dock when they saw my shadow. I forget what they were called. All gone. Just like the iron mines, the locomotive factories, the silk mills, and the slaughterhouses off Paterson Plank Road. It's amazing what the inhabitants of this state take pride in. Rutt's Hut. Wild West City. Cape May Diamonds. Big Daddy in Trenton.

All that trivial shite is remote from the visible goings-on around here. Kids across the valley will tell you that they're living a hand-to-mouth existence. They don't hunt for sport, they just want some meat on the table. Maybe they're the ones who put up that hand-lettered sign down by the Route 23 traffic light: "Heroin Kills." Underneath a drawing of a skull-and-crossbones. Up here, nobody remembers the way it used to be because it never really was that way. It was struggling to eke out a living, accepting fate, and hammering a cross into the ground where somebody got killed.

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