Friday, May 6, 2016


Another one of those William Blake
ideas, which once again has proved
not to work for me, was to not hold
things in and just to say what's on
your mind, about whatever or to
whomever. The idea was, once
again, the holding in or the
repressing of the desire to expound
is what causes the internal and
spiritual blockage which then twists
and bungles up the individual. I
guess it's a valid idea, and in a lot
of ways, for the year 1820, seemed
to predict an underpinning for
much of the psychological world
that came after. So, you go ahead,
tell someone what you feel, and
then regret it forever. Or you make,
in the other way, an enemy. 'We've
got a clear channel, at least,' is
what you're supposed to feel.
Not good.
Life was always a difficult case,
for me. It seemed I was set out
on some road, with a bag of junk
handed off to me, and that was it.
No instructions, no guidance. Maybe
one of the things I noticed was how
other kids always had instructions
and guidelines. Family closeness.
Nothing of that for me, somehow.
Anything that was presented to
me just turned out to be junk. Like
all those heavy fabrics and patterns
in old photographs; what were they
thinking? Had they been kidding?
As society disintegrated around us
all, by the late 60's anyway, a lot
of that fell away, but by then it was
all over for me anyway. I no longer
had a concern nor an interest in that.
Looking back now, the differences
were stark. Tompkins Square Park
always held at least 50 of these
old, dark, brooding European types;
east Europeans, Ukrainians and
all that. Just looking at them you 
could sense the fire and smoke of 
the NY immigrant community, all
those little pockets of ethnic 
neighborhoods. They were still
around  -  walking through 1st 
street, or 5th street, any of them 
along the old lower east side, you'd
smell the goulashes, the simmerings
of cabbage and soup and all that rest.
It hung in the air and you knew you
were somewhere else for sure. Many
of these people were still in some 
form of shock : displaced, or 
survivors, their faces and bodies
were broken. They dressed heavy
and swaddled; men with canes and
top-hats yet, bundled in coats for the
50 degree chill. They never really 
warmed up. The women were all
short and squat, chummy commas
awaiting something. Either it was
yet to come, or it had already long
passed them  -  I never knew. All
of these folk, silent and stern, and
sad, sat on benches. In rows; the
parks had them, the center, benched 
aisles of upper Broadway too. They
had nothing to do, they did nothing.
They were the heavy-fabric and 
densely curtained people of all 
those old and dreary days. Feeding
pigeons and having emotions. For
all of that  -  if you wished  -  New
York City was the center spot of
that slowly-turning, sadly emitting
dynamo of all the bad past just
ended  -  with no one having the
energy any more to lift a finger.
Hannah Arendt, here I come.
By contrast, the widely bristling
and always active optimism of 
these Pennsylvania folk was just 
as disconcerting. Everything was
bright and sunny; their God was a
happy folksinger, a chanter of
optimistic tunes with them, all of
deliverance and sunlight and 
gold-ray'd sunshine. A lover, a
swaddler. He'd certainly take 
you in. It was a specific and
stark break, a difference for me,
just rolling in, as it were, from 
darkness and plight. It was so
perfectly typical, in its way, 
with the stark, wagon-drawn
contrasts, that it could have been
a Depression-era movie, some 
Preston Sturges wipe-out, akin
to 'Sullivan's Travels' in its way.
I even had my own Veronica Lake.
The contretemps between these 
places, were they ever to have 
hit together, could have been 
startling. Yet, I ask you to review 
that sentence. It was within ME, 
where they'd hit together. So why 
not should that same squabble
between things be taking place 
within me? And it was, always. 
In some ways I'd simply had too 
much : train accident, family life, 
seminary stuff, miserable schooling, 
NYC, street-living, madness around 
me everywhere, these morose elders,
wasting their histories away in parks 
and on benches, the likes of all that 
Pennsylvania contrast and all those
all those new people. If I had broken,
it could have been perfectly defended. 
But I never 'broke'; instead I played 
the drama, read the role, acted the 
parts as needed, all the while 
ascertaining where and how I 
wanted my creative side to 
proceed  -  through turmoil 
and fire, through it all.
Amazingly, they had this thing they
did with kids up in Pennsylvania. 
There were any number of children 
with those borderline sorts of 
behavioral and learning problems
that have now become fairly common
and been given medical names. None
of that existed yet, then  -  it was all
just the mysteries of the organism 
at work, tearing through people's
hearts and souls. Bad genes, 
inbreeding, who knows. The ones
who were the worst of this lot, the
kids pretty hopeless and put off, 
they'd gather them together, to do
group things, feed them too and
give some some religion and 
guidance. They'd have these long
tables with cast-off or mission
clothing, and they'd set these kids
to work on that  -  sometimes removing
buttons (?), with these little remover
things (I never figured that one out)  -
going though boxes of clothes and
things, to match up shoes and lace 
them together. Stuff like that  -  
church make-work, distributing and
sorting the large boxes of clothing
trucked in to the mission distribution
centers, in Elmira and such, and then
broken out and brought around. It
never made much sense to me, like
going through endless rummage sale
crap, but, whatever. They had this
thing they did, I only heard of it, 
called 'Patterning'. An hour or two 
here or there daily or every few days.
I hated the name from the first I heard
of it and was always suspicious of it.
Patterning? You mean like robotizing 
and brainwashing? They'd have the
kids do things, after listening to a
process, a yapping and an instruction
period of how best to react or handle 
things, what qualities were needed, 
and whose 'behaviors' to follow  -  
the instructor's of course. The 
problem was the instructors were 
always these happy-ass idiots 
taking it upon themselves to
'do good', and show others. I
always felt bad for that entire
scene, and for those kids.
Generally, I found it best to just
pass those things by. Had I been 
using the William Blake dicta, I'd
have walked in there and said
something to them; but I never 
did that. Life was a muddled 
genius to me, people everywhere,
all doing different things in the 
way they felt best about doing.
It was never my part to butt in.
'Too busy,' as those farmer 
guys would say.

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