October 24, 1981
This is one of those mornings of one of those days when the world just doesn’t sit right with you and you need something, but don’t know what, a day, week, maybe a life time vacation.
But I can’t stand
and I can’t afford to retire back to California
without breaking into somebody else’s safe – and the last time the mob nearly
got me, so that kind of thing is out. But I miss palm trees, and I would love
to make the trip just to glimpse them again
But I’ve settled in a little too heavily into my place in
Passaic, too many
possessions to carry on my back, and too many to leave behind.
So I’m stuck.
Of course, I could take time off and make the trip the way ordinary people do, go back to Hollywood to see what has changed there, and if I’ll still cringe over some of the more painful memories I have of wandering those streets, those days when I thought I could deal drugs or that other stuff under the heavy heat of a movie camera for movies that no legitimate theater would ever show.
I’m not ashamed – but maybe embarrassed.
Although all in all the place was an incubator for a new me, someone who had gone there a naïve kid with a bundle of cash and came out broke, but rich in experience.
These days, I come here to find myself – collecting new memories or perhaps recalling earlier memories when this river was my life and my salvation, when I ran here not from mobsters with guns, or even the more serious pursuit of police. I came here to duck the impact of some prank gone wrong, and from the lawmen who wanted to drag me back to my uncles where they knew I would get heavier punishment than any court could administer.
What I got here surprised even me, less hide out than revelation, some sense of world beyond me.
While this place has changed greatly from when I wandered here as a boy, these changes are less severe than the changes to other place, somehow managing to heal itself in ways more civilized places cannot, restoring much of what once was after a fire when nothing is the same up the hill, or more the more intention destruction disguised as redevelopment.
I like this place because time has less impact here, and that the footprints of forefathers might well still be found somewhere in the muddy banks, or merely imitated by my own sneakers as I come to close to the brink.
The gulls that spread their wings as they soar over head are not the same gulls as my grandfather might have known, but they cry with the same hunger and needs, and I feel it in my bones because I cry inside for the same things they do, for comfort and satisfaction.
Sometimes I sit here and pretend I am Wordsworth, or some other natural poet seeking to preserve all that I see each day when I come here as if it is as important as the stuffy stuff that gets recorded in history books, the changing of leaves, the color of water, the dribble of rain or fleck of snow, on me, on the leaves, or the fallen leaves, on the surface that sometimes glittered with light and sometimes is so dark I could feel it suck me into its depths.
I come to water like this for rebirth, to shed not possessions that I fear to carry elsewhere, but the internal possession I have collected and cannot simply dump in the trash, not memories, but a parcel of feelings that have weighed me down more firmly than years living in one place, filled with guilt of mistakes I’ve made or things I have not done or will never do, and that other stuff such as words I should have said, but missed my opportunity, words like love or adoration that have such a short life span that unless you cast them into the wind they evaporate and leave only ashes in your hand and this weight like a stone inside you that you can’t just cast away – except in places like this where the world welcomes you, and draws these things out, and leaves to wander off with much less heaviness so that you can return to your life as if you have just come back from a place full of palm trees and have washed your feet in distant exotic oceans you cannot reach for economic or other reasons.
It is all here, lapping at the shore with lazy brown waves that are stirred up by the rise of a flock of geese or some kid throwing stones into the middle from the top of the bridge – kids like I used to be, escaping disaster to find salvation here.