Saturday, April 9, 2016


18. JUDY
Well, what can I say. I got stuff
to impart, and I'm going to do so.
More like some crazed philosopher-
king, because I'm not that at all. 
Just more like someone who's 
been there and chooses to tell 
about it.
I had a bicycle with me  -  it had
been on the curb on my home street,
Inman Avenue, out for trash, but
usable. From the Zellner boys, in 
fact, front of their house. I took it.
An old, black bike, it had once 
been, apparently, a 16-speed racing 
bike of some sort (4 different shifter
settings for a derailleur of 4 gear
rings, so I assume 16). None of
that worked, and I then got it going 
as a basic 1-speed, in some very
usable mid-range. I took it on
the train with me one day, from 
Avenel, and used it often, until it
was taken when the apartment was
raided by police. I was no longer
living there, but I lost all my stuff.
While I had the bicycle, however,
me and that girl named Judy 
Tenenbaum (she of that 'provinces'
comment mentioned a few chapters
back), would ride around evenings 
and nights, everywhere, just seeing 
and looking at things. Judy had a
cool way of grabbing fruit or
vegetables from the streetside
stalls and booths that once were
ubiquitous along all the streets. I
guess she was fast, or not that
self-conscious about it. You see,
really good thieves just don't
deliberate about it, they simply
execute the theft  -  they go about 
it with no hesitation and just proceed.
It's the hesitation or the deliberation 
and second-guessing oneself that
draws the eye of others, Anyway,
by that means we'd often have a few
apples or peaches, or a pepper or 
a cauliflower. Which I learned was 
eatable raw. Like a large apple or
something. It was OK. She had like a 
1950's style big, old, clunky girl's bike.  
What we used to call them anyway. We'd 
ride anywhere  -  favorite haunts were
uptown areas, over by the East River
at the UN  -  still pretty wild then, a
huge power-plant and incinerator,
a few slaughterhouses and tanneries 
still in place, big trucks lumbering
around, and then all of a sudden 
the boat-docks at Turtle Bay and 
then all that dainty stuff of the UN
architecture, the limousines swooshing 
by, the fine, uptown clubs and eateries, 
Sutton Place, and the rest. We never 
belonged there, but went anyway  -  
Tudor City had a nice park  - it's still 
there, still nice. The coolest part was 
all the undercliff stuff along the FDR 
Drive, back then anyway. Rock 
outcroppings, dripping waters, echoey 
traffic noises, weird lights of the night, 
boat reflections on the East River, all 
that sound and fury. Either that, or the 
lower westside, the complete opposite 
of all this  - slow, low and moaning 
noises of tugs and barges, people living 
in abandoned tractor-trailers discarded 
along the streets beneath the elevated 
WestSide Highway (the Miller
Expressway or something was the 
real name; sounded like a beer 
highway). That's all gone now. 
There were even whores plying 
their business out of mattress-lined 
trucks. No one ever cared nor did 
a thing about it. Judy knew a few
of them here and there, to talk with 
and say hi to. I never knew a darned 
one of 'em, to talk or say hi to. 
(Ain't I being coy here?)...
This lower westside was the real 
turf of New York. Mob central  -  nasty 
stevedores and dock foreman, pushing 
things around, people too. Freight and 
cargo was all still loose back than  -  
now everything coming in is all 
containerized and sealed, lifted off
by crane and dropped right on to
truck beds. And it's not even DONE
here anymore, because all that
sort of work and traffic is long-ago
gone from New York, which pretty 
much does nothing 'real' now, 'cept 
build. Back then, the way you made 
rank in your circles was by what you 
could get  -  steal, or have 'fall off the 
truck', as the saying went. Everybody 
had connections, you wanted a TV guy 
or a furniture guy, or whatever. People 
had certain control over the junk they 
handled. Money got exchanged, things 
went onto the wrong trucks or into the
trunks of cars, whatever. I'd occasionally 
get a few dollars, like hired for the day 
or the afternoon, breaking up pallets, 
changing oil on trucks, loading or
unloading something, stuff like that. 
Gathering up the rope coils, etc. There 
were little clutches of bums and others 
who hung around, made barrel fires 
of the cast-off wood, just gaped
like ghosts at the night or the light. 
It was like the Bowery, except they 
were all just a little less dead  -  same 
gaunt faces, gaps of missing teeth, 
sunken cheeks, splotchy skin, wispy 
hair, bent backs, sorrowful gaits,
tobacco chums, boozers, guys who'd 
hardly talk a sound  -  and others who'd 
never shut up, or just start snapping back 
in some imaginary conversation with 
someone unseen. The walking crazies. 
Everybody had a sad story, a sorrowful
tale, a big mistake. There was a guy, a 
writer, named Alfred Kazin, back then; 
he had written a book called 'A Walker 
In the City'. I'd always see these guys 
ranting around NYC talking or shouting 
out to imagined issues or people as they
went along. I called them each 'A Talker 
In the City.'  You can't do that anymore, 
because some nitwit now is always 
parading around talking to an unseen 
companion, but go to find out some
other fool on the other end of his 
Bluetooth connection, or whatever
all that crap's called. These days it's
all a totally different day. All the
crazies are dead, and these jerks just 
turn out to be stocks and securities 
guys talking their bullshit deals, even
though they look just as crazy,
but better-dressed.
Anybody who wanted to make 
connections could make them around 
there. Deals. Contraband. Sex. All of
it was calmly controlled by these usually
big or near to overweight slob-guys who
never cared about anything; nothing 
nice about them at all but for maybe a
gun barrel in your mouth or whatever
it took to convince you of the rightness 
of something  - a task, a job, or the error 
of what you'd just said or done. It was all
hard-scrabble stuff, and you'd learn it
as you went along. There's a good book,
also, about all this stuff, called 'Westies',
by somebody I forget -  it's about the
Hell's Kitchen areas docks and stuff,
maybe twenty blocks up or so, but all
the same death and shenanigans. Judy,
by the way, was never in with any of
this stuff, She never came around 
during the worst of any of this. We 
were always, as it were, together after 
hours. Most of this crazy stuff was 
broad daylight shakedowns. And, it
was funny too, once we ever got back to
the Studio School, it was like none of this
ever happened. We'd hardly acknowledge
each other, or she me anyway. It was
just a little bit of a caste system thing
going on, and she was mixing with
the low when out with me. 
Better left unsaid.

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