Saturday, June 4, 2016


When I moved to 509 e11th,
right next door to it  -  and
completely unknown to me at
this time  -  was a pretty fetching
looking iron-gate courtyard and
entryway to a series of neighboring
apartments. Over the archway, in
iron letter-work, were the words
'Paradise Alley'. All well and good,
I enjoyed being there and adjoining
the presence. (Anyone, by the way,
with the inclination or interest to
do so, can look this up, and see
photos, by typing in : 'Paradise Alley
Was the Beat Generation's Oasis
In the Middle of Chaos.' In addition
to text, it has two photos  -  the one
on the right is the present day, new
building there, in place  -  an elder
residence, actually; the photo on
the left is it, and the lower buildings,
next to Paradise Alley, the first of
them was 509, where I lived). At
the time of my getting there, the
courtyard and residences at Paradise
Alley, 501, were mostly Hell's Angels
motorcycle people  -  lots of Harleys,
panheads and knuckles (engine types),
and plenty of tough people, and women.
They had just gotten established there,
from someplace else, and did eventually
move to their current, long-standing
clubhouse on 3rd street. I knew only
a few, to nod to, nothing more, and in
fact I had absolutely no idea, in Summer
'67, that I'd have motorcycles  -  and
them  -  in my future in 22 years. It
sure is the craziest world you can
imagine. Since it was Summer, most
all of the activity here was outside.
The courtyard was always humming
with people, drinking beer, sitting
around, working on motorcycles
(they were all parked everywhere). I
took an interest in this only for the
visuals and the interesting people  -
greasers and tough-guys, some old
veterans too. The girls were all
pretty cool, but tough  -  like West
Side Story tough, or something like
that. You still knew they were girls,
women, and desirable and all that,
yet they had this really strange aura
about them; Devil-may-care attitudes,
none of that 'feminine, stuff. Like,
girls in rolled-up flannel shirts, open
a few too many buttons, with lots of
breast stuff sprawling out too. Jeans
with rolled cuffs. Hard to explain.
Did just pop my old eyeballs out
a few times, I admit. Within five
years after I left, all of Paradise
Alley was taken down and for
years it just remained an empty lot.
Right now, it a new, maybe 6 or 10
year old Senior Citizen housing tower.
Imagine that. The memories.
If you look back, read or research, old
1940's, 1950's, Beatnik stuff, Paradise
Alley was like the hub of Beat activity.
Guys wrote about it, it's in stories, hidden
by other names in books, and people too.
How I, by chance, ended up right next
to it, is beyond me. In my mind, there's
always a spiritual sense to things that
I bring forth  - sounds stupid, yes, but
true. In actualizing an intention, the
selfness of a person has the power to
attract, to bring forth   -  instead of
conflicts and angst  -  harmonies and
the intuitive synergies to produce like
minded realities. The attraction, I guess,
was mutual  -  like the sudden rush of
love and connection, the emotion of
meeting a complete new and surprising
person. It just works.
The differences here were stark  -  let
me try to explain. This was one of new
York City's oldest and most legacy-laden
areas, the two blocks around Tompkins
Square Park  -  the old communal hub
of a part of the lower east side, before
this time (1967) that was almost European.
Emigres, refugees, Jewish camp survivors,
socialists, communists, Trotskyites, spies,
writers, outcasts, Yiddish theater types,
people who had lost everything, and
people who were shambling and mad.
It was old Germantown, before the
big German community transplant
up to Yorkville in the east 90's. Once
the General Slocum disaster (a family
outing steamship line, one of which
caught fire and burned, in full view
of everyone, right there at the water,
killing many) took place, right out
there at the waterfront, and all those
family people died, the German
community, in shock and grief,
never fully recovered, and simply
transplanted itself in sadness.
The void of the Germans leaving
was quickly filled by others  -  Poles,
East Europeans Jews, Slavs, and more.
By the 1960's (my time there) Puerto
Ricans and Hispanics had taken over.
Any 'vibrancy' there, was theirs  -  music,
shouting, laughter, sex. They represented
mirth. The Bikers filing in represented
darkness. The same darkness that the
Beatniks had previously represented,
right there. But with a different spin.
In fact, there were so many different
undercurrents in one place that it was
quite weird. It's difficult to describe
how vivid and fresh yet was the presence
of World War II right there, even still
in 1967. Survivors, as I said, still sulked.
Wounded and hurt people, the sorts of
displaced people who too 12 years to
end up somewhere else, still unsettled,
but at least they were in NYC, with a
group of their own. Previous to the
Hell's Angels, the beatniks represented
yet another kind of darkness  -  replete
with Euro-Existential angst, the nervous
 jazz-fest camaraderie of talk, and chatter,
speed and nonsense, all mixed up. They
were a stream of consciousness bunch
with, at least, some learning and
referential tradition behind them.
Their darkness had a sensical and
understandable logic. The hippies,
on the other hand, as I watched them
roll in, they just spattered themselves
over everything, without regard. Just
froth. Just stupid nothing. A
communitarian aspect of some
twisted Utopian bullshit creed.
To me it was all like fingernails
down a blackboard. Screech and
ouch combined. I really disliked
what they represented; it was like
a blow-back overflow of all
American sham culture, with
these spoiled little punk kids,
wishing to get high and stay
happy, just running on overload
to loaf around and live loosely.
It was sort of that, somehow, I
got mixed up with that, in people's
heads, so they thought I too was a
'hippie'. It was so untrue as to be
laughable. And sad. The other
cultural input here, all pretty much
within three blocks, was the mad,
crazy, loud and romantic fires of
the Puerto Ricans. The Hell's
Angels seemed to completely
ignore them, and vice versa.
They were so very different
as to be two planets apart. The
Spanish lived on the street and
on stoops and porches  -  loud,
crazed, hot-weather people,
always going at it about
something. Husbands and
wives shouting back and forth
at each other, anger, ire,
frustration. Kids screaming
and jumping through the street.
Spanish girls in temptress clothes
not yet even aware of what they
were doing or what message they
were sending. I used to wonder 
how that happens, and how, 
culturally, a young girl grows 
into the awareness of her overt 
sexuality unwittingly being too
 much on display. So things get
explained to her, to stop it. Does
her family take her aside? What is,
culturally in that milieu, the right 
way? I never knew.
So, what I'm trying say, (I think) is
that the overlay of the modern day
was in a conflict here, with everything 
around it. There was violence and
Bikers outlaws, criminals and drugs,
happy idiots and Hispanic maniacs,
all banging up against tired and sad
old people, ancient cultures and rites
wherein ancient people still lived by
their ancient traditions. I'd gotten 
thrown somehow right into the mix 
of it all, and I have a thousand tales
to tell from it. I guess I'll be bouncing
back and forth between it 
and Pennsylvania.

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