Friday, June 14, 2019


There's an incunabula in my
budding tree. What the heck
is going on, and can this really
be? I went to Crawford Avenue,
just today, to that guy with the
nursery, to see if he knew what
was going on. He had plenty of
trees everywhere, saplings too. 
but he was sitting around reading
a book, like he had nothing
else of anything to do....

11,837. RUDIMENTS, pt 716

RUDIMENTS, pt. 716
(a literary jumble [jungle?])
Along about 17th street at
Gramercy Park, there's an
old tavern called Pete's.
It stakes its own claim as
New York's oldest, etc., and
the claims go back and forth  -
McSorley's, and others, and
the fact of the matter is it
doesn't matter one whit. There
are no 'starting points' for
anything like that and it just
all turns out being stupid, and
mostly publicity for the lame
sake of having publicity and
drawing the rubes in. The only
thing old about it is it's all an
old story, and it reads tiresomely.
Over at Pete's they lay claim
to a New York writer, William
Henry Porter, famous guy, who
made his mark as the writer with
the name O. Henry. (1862-1910).
Their claim is that he wrote many
of his stories right there, sitting
at one of their tables, with drink
in hand. Maybe so. Whatever.
His stories always revolved
around a little twist of irony at
the end  -  they never much held
my interest, but they're there.
I did, on the other hand, a lot of
study and work, at one point, with
Chaucer and 'Canterbury Tales.'
Much digging and reading into
an oftentimes maliciously
unheartening Olde English.
If that's what it was. Anyway,
an amazing cross-over happened
along the way  -  inasmuch as
one day I was working my way
through a Chaucer study, something
by William Frost, and the two
banged heads : O.Henry and
Chaucer; which was cool but
didn't matter. I don't mean,
by the way, that they conflicted
or were in some antagonistic
relationship. Rather, something
that O. Henry said, and it was
then turned towards Chaucer,
seemed a better fit, in my eyes,
for the work I myself was then
a'borning : "In recent times, O.
Henry remarked that the true
technique of narrative was to
catch your reader's interest at
the start, (when he could not
choose but hear) to subject him
to an extended barrage of your
own opinions about irrelevant
subjects before continuing with
the plot.' I always thought that
was pretty cool, and that it was,
in turn, a fairly apt summation
of a process of drawing a reader
in. Perhaps it was more difficult
back then; phrase it as easier. A
lot depended on oral stuff, being'
heard (aural too), and most
people were illiterate. It's still
like that, though people now are
illiterate in completely different
ways, and fashionable about it
too The oral/aural has won out,
rules the days, and people have
oral fixations of every sort now
too, running the gamut of restaurant
oral-dining and blabbing, to the
plain oral crud of junk-talk, like
talking to your yellow-cab tax;
guy,; I don't know anything
about Uber and Lyft. Two of
stupidest business names I've
ever seen (or heard, okay?)...
I always had fun with words too  -
like, it says here, 'Chaucer was born
in the early 1340's and died, according
to his tombstone (?) in 1400. His
parents were prosperous wine
merchants in southern England,
and his career and post led to a
position of high civil servant and
a marriage into the ducal household
of  John of Gaunt.' I always wished
to re-write that along the lines of
his parents being preposterous
wine merchants only when in the
south of England, and he being a
member of the household of John
of Gaunt  - which was a household
in which there was very little food.
One time in the seminary I noticed
a guy reading early English satirists.
It caught my eye -  I'd never known
about them before. Fielding, and
some others I can only faintly recall
Two guys names were together, like
a writing team. Maybe it'll come to
me, and I'll put it down here. (Not
Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, of
course; but the same sort of feel to
the words)*. I watched with some
fascination, and then when I myself
began reading these things, to see
what was up, they bored me stiff.
(That's kind of a too-active voice
for what I mean to say. In actuality,
'I was bored stiff' is better, since
they had little to do with it, other
than 'having written it....That's
all a curious sidebar). I guess if
you have to call anyone a satirist,
Laurence Sterne comes bet to the
fore from that era. Spectacular,
almost crazy  -  for sure the first
'novel,' I'd say. It used to fascinate
me how he took all this jumbled
crap together and made it (sort of)
do something, as a read. There
are black pages, and black pages,
in the book. It was the first time
anyone had taken words and
ideas, zany and jumbled as they
may have been, and made a
singular narrative of them, and
one headed somewhere and with
discernible, worked over, characters.
As good as it all was, it to was
tedious, but there were lessons in
that to be drawn and examined.
When I carefully first read it,
it was as if I'd walked straight
into a terrible maelstrom. It
actually (almost) angered me
with what seemed to be useless
flights of fancy in the sense
of digression and discursive
flights to nowhere except the
whims of an author intent on
confounding a reader and
being and scoundrel too. But
then I realized enough that the
time and the place of all this
is bettered and made even more
startling by considering the
years in which it was written.
It (the book) was not cohesive,
it fragmented, it was foul, some,
and  -  most certainly and once
and for all  -  it broke that
invisible barrier of linear time
and sequential delivery and the
blase tortures of form and logic
by which its own world had and
was being built. It was a rude, lousy
shout out to the glory of exclusion,
revolt, and subjectivity. None of
them being qualities of the supposed
'Age of Reason' to be sure, and
anyway, around it all the world
really was falling apart. William
Blake and Laurence Sterne could
probably have happily walked in
friendship for a whale of a trek.
I would bleat while reading this,
pent up in a hole in some brick
seminary tomb, a logic of reason
and thought erected completely from
another direction, but one spoken of
as never to be challenged or refuted.
Here we had : Virgin birth, angelic
Annunciations, miracles and
transformations, quips and comments
related as confusing parables and
called holy writ, men bonding -
and as  itinerant vagabonds loyal
only to each other, and war with
the powers that be, and the people
of their own ilk, voices, mobs,
secrets, superiorities, levels of
elitists intent on branding all
things their own way  -  in fact,
everything but humor, which, by
contrast, Sandy had in buckets. My
small personal prison was never
more apparent than when I was
looking out through those bars.
I'd walk the New York streets
and be thinking about this stuff  -
as I passed the locked gates of
Gramercy Park (only the
adjacent tenants and landowners
are allowed key and entry). It
was very strange to me  - the
wonderful area of the Stuyvesant
park grounds (even if they weren't
that 'wonderful' then  except for
litter, trash, needles and junkies-
who-dozed) trying to put myself
in place there as William Blake or
Laurence Sterne, either one would
do. Right there, along the Gramercy
face, Pete's Tavern at its corner and
all the crazy stories of people and
activity I'd keep hearing of and/or
witness  -  none of it really mattered
but if O. Henry had been in there
writing too, I'd have introduced him
to my 'guests' for sure. At Numbers
3 and 4, Albert Grossman, Bob Dylan,
and some weirded out, endrugged
frenzy bespeaking the 1960's versions
of their worst nightmares. Tristram
Shandy indeed. The shibboleth there
would be, maybe, idiocy.
So, what was my blot? Where was I?
I'd transformed myself by then in so
many ways all my mirrors had left
home. There were no mirrors, and
there was no home, but that fact is
inconsequential to the power of
creation, to which all other things
soon become subservient. So, there
was O. Henry. I'd just slipped back
any number of years and I went
right up to him and said : 'Still
working on 'Last Leaf,' are you?
Take six months, give yourself
plenty of time, and a clear, conscious
head, and read 'The Life and Times
of Tristram Shandy' by Laurence Sterne.

*Addison and Steele; The Tattler?

Thursday, June 13, 2019


Is nothing but strife. The windows
won't close, the siding droops, and
the milk left out goes sour. By the
hour it turns to milk soup. Not good.
I was hoping for something more
and no damage to the feeders or
the hoops out in the yard, arrayed
for flowers and birds. To guard;
instead they rage  -  shrieks and
whistle and noises like a raging
storm off the seaside shelf of Hades.


My foot is a foot long. I would
suppose? My elbow adds the
grease for the needed elbow
grease? These things I say. And 
they're OK. As far as all that goes
but really who cares at all?
I've read that yellow book twice
times in a row and got nothing
from it but mental grief. It seems
to bounce from Hart Crane to
Sinclair Lewis, and back again.
Where are you going, where have
you been? Where are you, groin,
and what have you Ben. Uncle.
With the rice. And Joyce. Carol.
Oaties. Like the cereal. Killer.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

11,834. RUDIMENTS. pt. 715

RUDIMENTS, pt. 715
(future so bright)
The lion tamer tames like
the drunk drinks, I always
figured. At the seminary
the only person ever suspected
of drinking was the Spanish
guy who ran the cooking staff;
who was the main 'Chef.' I
have to admit, I never saw
him reeling drunk, and it
never much mattered to me.
The odder thing, as I saw it,
within the context of the
seminary itself, was that
neither he nor any of the
cooking staff ever acted
religious, nor did they ever
show up for any of the
church and chapel stuff we
were always doing. Kind of
odd. I'd have figured all that
to have been a stipulation of
working there. Admittedly,
there was a lot of mystery
there and it remained so  -
how those priests and brothers
all lived together, what they did
with their time, or even if, (as
some rumor went) they tippled
and had their own slew of
cocktails in there  -  the big
house they all lived in. The
seminary, a hundred years back,
had been a buffalo farm. Yes,
bison. There was a round farm
building right near too there.
And out on the side acreage
there was the regular cow barn
and the rest, run as a regular
farm set up by that Brother
Sebastian guy, or maybe it
was Brother Cornelius, I do
forget. He had a large, white
beard, yellow around the
mouth, from food and tobacco 
and stuff. A small guy, he
always reminded me of the
hermit we had living in the
nearby thicket by the Krug
mansion (we called it). Monica
Court was built there too, on
the overlap of properties, and
there was, within the now and
greatly reduced Krug acreage
( brewery family from Newark),
I think it was Krug, maybe Kruger,
I don't know any more. For some
reason, they had a hermit who
they allowed to live in that small
shack. Maybe he was once their
groundskeeper or something; but
no matter, he too was small and
had a large white beard, yellowed
around the mouth. Poor guy, we
used to torment him relentlessly.
Eventually he took to having at
us with a salt-pellet gun, just
to blast  us away from the area.
He never stepped outside the
fenced area that I ever saw. No
words were ever spoken other.
One day, he was just gone and
that was that. They built Ronnie
Suter's house on the spot where
his hut used to be.
The memory of the hermit always
meshed for me with the farmer-
Brother there at the cemetery.
I felt closer to that scene than
most any of the others at first,
and then once I got rolling with
the drama department and the rest
of that, the farm-side of things
faded for me. In the very beginning,
I got involved with the daily slop
for feeding the pigs  -  they had
their own pig-pasture-pen about
a quarter-mile off from the barn;
they'd flop around and wallow
in the mud and muck. It was
always pretty wet, with running
water and mud. We had a few carts,
like really large wheelbarrows,
which would get filled with food,
cast-offs, extras, etc., and when
they got filled up they were rolled
along and we'd tip them into the
feeding-trough area. The pigs
would all be milling about,
grunting and bumping into each
other, crowding to the feeders.
They were almost always, it
seemed to me, smiling  - a sort
of pig-smile hard to describe,
especially seeing as pigs don't
really have the sort of face and
jaw that would make a smile.
They live amidst such misery
anyway that they'd normally
not dare to smile. Unlike
humans, who have a face a
jaw made for smiles but who,
instead, always find ways to
make themselves so miserable
that smiles never happen  -  and
who, unlike pigs too, can go to
a butcher shop and walk out
again. Go figure.
It's a tasty life, I guess. Or,
most of the time it is  -  on 
the other hand, it's not often 
tasteful. There's a difference, 
you know.
For me, the time I'd spend with
those pigs, and in their very
nice spot  -  wooded, farm-fenced,
a pasture-glade sort of location  -
was among the best moments
I'd get. I'd never before experienced
anything like that. It was a sort
of oneness with the world, its
animals and trees and Nature,
all at once. Everyone else would
be up at the campus and running
about with their small-time games,
tennis, the softball, and sports.
I mostly could not have cared
less about that stuff; it was all
out of the loop for me. Heck, 
even today, all the rest of Life 
is out of the loop for me  -  it's 
a real shame how we've gotten 
things strapped enough that the 
needs for money and prestige 
and place somehow have 
become  paramount and taken 
precedence over all other things. 
It's not wonder life is a big, 
stinking mess.
I used to end up with funny
thoughts. Here's a for instance:
If a person really and truly had
a belief in God, why would they
wear sunglasses? If the God they
profess believing in was all that
they claimed, why would they
lose that faith and think that
God would make things too
bright for them?


The pepperman was staked to his
game; I'd put up the 40-buck ante
for him. Now all he had to do was
sit down but all he wanted to do
was play pool. 'My very slick
condescender, that's not so cool.'
I had to tell him that, not even
knowing what it meant, those
words I'd just made up. If it had
been, instead, 1960, I may have
said, Hey, daddio, get your 
hepcat black ass off the table 
and come here.' Well, maybe. 
Back then you had to be really
careful anyway; like the time
James Baldwin and that other
guy got nearly beat to death at
The White Horse, for sitting
at a table with two white girls.
Two Italian locals didn't like
what they saw when they 
passed by on the way to the
men's room (or as they say in
Italian, 'Balderoni toiletrini').
They never even realized those
two dukes were gay.


I sure understood them : the park across
the street was arid and there was but
little water anywhere. The Boro workers
were in there working, Ed and his crew,
whacking grass edges and servicing the
wide lawn. All Ed ever cared about was
motorcycle clubs  - who was coming to
where and how the Breed was going to
war with the Angels and the Angels were
at was with the Pagans and this Summer 
for sure it was all going to come down
to a battle royale. Yeah, sure, and I had to
hear this stuff everything he'd get my ear.
It got so I couldn't step out of my house
somedays because he was there, again.
If it wasn't the grass in the park, say, in 
the Winter months, he'd be on the garbage
truck at 6am. I'd see him there as I walked
to the train station  -  and more of the same
ensued. Bar-room brawl he'd witnessed at 
the Knox, when the Pagans came in at
one in the morning on their way back
from something, and two guys were in 
there from some other club on their way
out. Snack-down central, never any cops
Grace, the lady who owned the Knox,
she was wise and never cared anyway,
just keep the front clean and stop the
shit. My trouble was always this trouble.
No matter where, it didn't need to be in
Metuchen. It went Hoboken or New Yok
or Monmouth Shore Points or Asbury Park.
Tiredest crap you'd ever want to hear. I
had to at it all like it mattered, and report
back on it all too, writing the steamboat
articles for the local Biker papers, and then
getting all screwed up over an obituary
when some one of these cretins died.
Real pinnacles of understanding,
they were.

11,831. RUDIMENTS, pt. 714

RUDIMENTS, pt. 714
(who was to turn my pages?)
In a previous chapter, three or
four back, I made mention of
arriving at the seminary to see
those guys out back, at work
in the sun, laying pipes and
digging a ditch. It was much 
like the southern chain gangs
I'd learn about some time later,
the prisoners chained, the guards
watching them, rifles in hand.
Of course it bore no true fact
of that, but I connected the two
once I learned about them. My
first 'Freshman' dorm roommate,
of which there were about 6,
meaning 5 plus me  -  it was a
barracks like setting, not much
at all in the way of amenities -
was David Kane, a guy from, as
I recall, and I could be wrong,
Wilmington, Delaware. David
for some reason soon became the
butt of a lot of tweedling humor,
jokes, etc. I never knew why,
except that he was quiet. I kept
out of all that, and always felt bad
a bit for David, though even we 
two never really became friends. 
I used to figure perhaps being
from Delaware, maybe, had 
something to do with it. Delaware
meant nothing to me, I'd had no
exposure to it as a place, at all.
I heard it was tomatoes and dirt
roads, crumbling farms and sheds.
In all other respects, David was
normal  -  clumsier than most,
not very athletic. Maybe that
went into it. A lot of these goofy
seminary guys took an undue
interest in sports. It was only a
few days after that when every
other person seemed to start 
rolling in. And then the big 
surprise  -  late by a few days,
and after we'd all thought the 
room was settled, this guy from
Italy rolls in; some Italian name
that I really can't recall  -  Louie,
Luigi, Salvatore, Antonio. I
don't know. He was from Italy,
straight through, and came in
like gangbusters, language and
accent and all. As it ended up, he
only lasted about three weeks, 
maybe a little more, and was
gone. Maybe it was less than
three; I can't say. But the
cool thing was  -  in the little
dresser that we each got, along
with some closet space and room
for our trunk  - while the rest
of us had socks and underwear,
say, in the top drawer - this guy,
I'll call him Louie, kept a supply
of salami! I kid you not, the
loaf-sized thing of salami, like
a deli has hanging, or a meat
market. He kept 4 or 5 of them,
and they smelled garlicky enough
too. The smell sort of permeated
the room, if you concentrated on
finding it, along with the usual mess
of boys' sweat socks, gym clothes,
sneakers, and the rest. I don't think 
he knew much about any of that,
but he sure knew his salami. I
never saw him eating any of it,
but I was told he sliced pieces off
at will, and chomped. I also seem 
to remember (this may be fanciful)
the big joke around of him also
receiving a re-supply of salami
by mail, once. If that means 3
weeks, OK  -  I guess that would 
or could be a salami a week or so.
Some of this gets all hazy, and 
I can never figure out why that
happens. It was, after all, my own
life and events that I lived, as
young as I may have been. But,
in some way, it's all there, just
needing to be smoked out. Parts
of it may overlap, who knows.
Like the mix-up of the years. I'm
certain I recall the first year dorm
thing being the barracks-like set up,
and then the second year getting it
all moved to the 'better' building,
some three-story, federal-style,
heap of bricks, with even larger
group-rooms and metal beds,
almost medical-looking, all
in rows. There was a group
bathroom with like ten sinks,
all connected in a row, mirrors,
showers, stalls, toilets, all that
crud. That was pretty miserable;
a bunch of boys, all about the
same age, but each advancing
differently along the road to
'maturity,' as they'd put it I guess.
It wasn't too cool to have to see.
(Speaking of salami?) Bad joke,
Mr. Writer. Some guys had to
shave, or got into shaving. Others
still had the smoothest skin this
side of a Breck girl. Some fussed
and finagled over themselves,
like Breck girls too, and others,
like me, managed with the most 
cursory swab of nothing but fast.
I hated all that grooming and care
crap  -  never paid it any mind, and
didn't ever care. There was this
one guy, John Banko (died in
prison way later, as a priest 
who'd abused boys, believe it
or not. You can look it up), he
hung around the gym area, and
the dorm area too, always had
his little towel and soap, going
to or from the showers. Probably
three times a day. The guy used
to creep me out, he'd always say,
headed to the showers, 'You know
what they say, 'clean body, clean
mind.' What an ass he was. One
time, I was his page-turner and
assistant and understudy for the
musical accompaniment on the
organ (Hey! don't laugh. I mean
the instrument, like a keyboard),
for one of the theater productions we
were putting on  -  live background
music, etc. In the dark of the theater,
the organist had only the little music
lamp for illumination and I had to 
sit on the bench next to him, reading 
the music score as he played, and
turning the page for him at the
appropriate time. If he'd ever
gotten sick or was a no-show, I'd
be the fill-in. Thank goodness 
that never happened. (I don't 
know who would have turned 
my pages). But, anyway, after
I got the assignment, and the
found out with whom I'd be 
working, (Mr. Clean Creepy Body,
Clean Creepy Mind himself), I
kind of wished I'd never gotten
involved. As it was, it all went
off OK.
So, you see what I'm saying?
These are stories, but they're also
my own real life  -  as a stupid,
bedeviled kid. Chucked out on
my own into some ridiculous
environment of religion mixed
with boys, all undergoing at the
same time the adolescent angst
and confusions of whatever goes
down. That, my friends, is what
brings the Lord Jesus Christ to 
each of you, in the Catholic Church
anyway. You can take it from me,
and if you wish, I'll go under oath.
So help me God.