I really want to get this going....

Each day's listing is an excerpted edit from my work. These are numbered and sub-headed for ease of read and isolation from full body of continued text. Each small excerpt is a single-themed piece culled from a much larger whole. Please follow the heading numbers down to #1, or click on 'archive'. The highest numbers are most recently posted, obviously. If so interested, for follow-up, you may contact via e-mail shown - perhaps for discussion or annotation needed.

Thursday, June 05, 2008



I may have broken subterfuge with that idea : a gloss about going away something told between gritted teeth an old story about the junkyards outside of Camden NJ as seen in late evening from a 1952 Chevy pick-up passing along rutted old roads with hulks of houses left and ancient and severe looking black people staring out from the porches on a late October night : cool air lingering light soon to fade and colors passing to gray : twisted and sagging old cars in the nearby weeds or next to old dirt lanes with piles of metal and mattresses and steel all about while a few gnarly dogs sneer and growl barking at shadows and any movement to be seen the long vista of junkyards and oiled paths stretch through clumps of tall grass and trees - one moment a bucolic and beautiful scene and the very next an enormous horrid wreck of a place and it all runs down to the river somewhere along the edge whatever river it else the Delaware I guess - broad and wide enough to be something and important and swift enough to be the border between two states too - again that grand duality of things life and death entwined light and darkness and hurt and joy power and weakness : two states it would seem which are everywhere we go : and in trying to tell this all to someone ( a black guy huddled at a table his blue scarf jammed around his neck and a sailor's knit cap perched upon his top) I knew I'd missed a lot but was hoping anyway he got the feel of the episode correct and as I talked I began getting the strange sensation of having just read James Agee's great piece about a porch in an introduction I think to 'Let Us Now Praise Famous Men' or something and I thought it was called 'Knoxville 1913' or something like that but it seemed a far far superior piece of atmosphere to me than anything I could venture yet my words rolled on and this guy Tom he was rolling yet another cigarette as he hunched over the table and looked squarely down and he lit the cigarette with a scratch of a match to the tabletop as I watched him take a few first long deep drags and let the smoke linger as it seemed within his teeth and mouth until it disappeared into his sucking deep breath going in and then just as swiftly it came flying back out - soiled smudgy coils of smoke moved away from him as it seemed even his eyes flinched from the sting and he turned and said "you know what I think ? I think you talk the best old stories I ever heard - that sounds lots like someplace I been already and remember well" and I really didn't need to reply because he'd not meant it for that and so I just nodded and said "um yeah and it's real you know - that was Camden in like 1963 before they took all that away - and now there's a big prison or something there and even Walt Whitman's house it just sits there now like an old bedraggled leftover of something else - a quaint forgotten clump of three or four row houses together and nothing more and with the huge prison or whatever right across the street - government guards and gatehouses and all that" and he said "yeah I knows that - and that's what always happens the governments they step right in and take what they want - all the old beauty's gone since they owned it and their world's all just gold-plated shit anyway - might look better but underneath it all it's just shit" and this guy Tom reminded me of Black Tom the old place by Jersey City that's now Liberty Park - same story same bullshit - the government comes in and takes away whatever's left of some old sacred spot and just covers it over and fictionalizes its own version of the real truth about whatever might once have been there and nobody says a word and then all the new people they just fall for this new storyline and fall all over it and even start paying to go there and see things - Black Tom was a huge ammunition storage depot and loading port for WWI ships and it was blown up one night mysteriously by German agents in WWI one of the very few times that foreign agents have gotten onto American soil to cause destruction and the resounding blast was heard for miles and miles and fire raged and it was all wrecked and left with nothing there but tangled steel and wrecked buildings and all else and for years like that it just sat there and was called Black Tom - shacks and hovels squatters and hobos and mad dogs among the ruins and I remember once in Bayonne my Uncle Joe showing me a Black Tom telephone book when it had one of its very own - small and skinny like only a few hundred people lived there but lived there nonetheless - and now it too is all gone and just like old real Camden too gone and forgotten and me and this Tom fellow we just sat there a long time and talked about old Camden - about when he was a kid and when they'd come through with the salvage trucks and big metal dumpers would drop off tons of scrap metal from the old battleships being decommissioned and scrapped in the harbor and how the smokes and fires would go on all night and light up the distant waters like it the river itself was fire and flame and magic and he told of the vegetable-picking farm crews and the rack-trucks filled with peppers and tomatoes that came through for the soup company where nearly all the poor folk worked (Campbell Soup) and I wanted to tell him my story too - about how when I was that certain age Campbell Soup cans were seen as the high art of the century in NYC and forget the rest......but I figured he already knew that.


At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Knoxville 1915" is the prologue to Agee's "A Death in the Family" which was published after Agee's own death and won a Pulitzer. "Let Us Know Praise Famous Men" was published years before his death and was out of print when he died.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger gary j. introne said...

Anon. Thanks for your comment. I actually knew that stuff but mixed it up as I did for the purposes of the story - in telling the 'mixed-up confusion' of the welter of that moment in memory as I retold what went on with Tom. I have always felt 'Knoxville 1915' is a very wonderful piece of writing. ...By the way, I really hate that 'anonymous' stuff. I don't bite. Write me direct whenever you want - njabate@aol.com. But anyway, nice hearing from you.


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