Thursday, June 9, 2016


79. COOL
People used to tell me not
to 'lose my cool'. I never 
knew what they meant. 
Now I do, of course, and
it makes a difference. It's 
about detachment, more 
than anything. Not the
detachment of irony, which
is more about just getting
attention, like 'look at me,
oops, doing this again, I'm
such a cool dude.' It's more 
the more serious detachment
of distancing yourself from 
the world. I was OK at that. 
One time, in Sea Bright, NJ, 
a few of us, at a friend's 
urging, went down there 
to do an evening ocean swim. 
There was a serious riptide 
in place,warnings were up, 
and the lifeguards had gone 
home, the beach was free.
The riptide caught me, 
out past the jetty, and 
struggle as I might, I 
could not stop from just 
getting farther and farther 
away from the shore. I 
was losing it and getting 
really winded, and then 
nervous, and then panicking. 
They thought I was, once 
more, just goofing and 
fooling around  -  so they 
paid me no mind. Until I 
was way out, screaming
for assistance. They, or 
someone, must have called 
a local emergency crew, 
and the next thing I knew, 
I was being hauled into 
some rescue boat, with 
a few really intense EMT 
rescue types manhandling 
me, to safety. When the 
boat got me back to shore, 
they hustled me into a 
waiting ambulance and 
high-tailed me to Jersey
Shore Medical Center, 
Emergency. There was 
nothing wrong with me,
but they said that at that
point 'policy and procedure'
had kicked in, and they had 
to do it. I was there for about
three hours, and my friends,
with the car and the ride home,
had to come and get me, and 
wait. They said I'd 'lost my 
cool.' That was like the first
time I understood what the 
phrase meant. At home, my
parents thought I was whacked,
and then when a bill for all that
stuff came, a week or so later,
my mother freaked. I think she
lost her cool. I told my friends
it must run in  my family.
Being in New York, the entire
place, what it's known for, is the 
opposite of cool, for sure. The
entire New York attitude is of
belligerence, intensity, pushing 
and prodding, rudeness and 
swarming. Nothing cool about
it. At one level, even though 
I was scared shitless, it was 
perfect for my temperment,
yet at the other level it kept me
from the intended 'maturation'
into coolness, into distance.
The Zen monks and the 
Buddhist guys around, the
Mennonites on 9th Street, in
what is called 'Menno House'
(still there to this day) they 
live and remain totally aloof,
committed completely to the
needed detachment which all
around them in the fierce city
rages. I felt more that that
was what I really wanted.
I was cool when I first paid 
that landlord guy my 60 bucks 
for rent and then another 60 
for 'security'. I was cool when 
I worked alongside Jose, some 
big, hulking Mexican-Indian 
guy who was hiding out from 
Colorado where he said he'd 
thrown his wife out of a 
fast-moving car along a 
mountain cliff. Pushed her
out the door, and assumed 
she was dead. He washed 
pots and pans when we worked 
together some nights at the
hamburger and ice-cream place
next door to the Fillmore East.
I was cool when I walked up 
and down St. Marks Place, in
every business doorway asking
if there was any available job.
I was cool when they all said 
no, and they mostly told me 
to go over to Second Avenue, 
some laundromat with an 
address I tried to remember. 
They said to ask for a guy 
named 'Sy'. I was cool after 
that too, when I got by the 
laundromat. Most everything 
right there was Rapoport this 
and Rapoport that: Rapoport's 
Children's Furniture, Rapoport's 
Shoes, on and on, endless 
businesses. Furniture stores, 
bicycles, coats and clothing. 
And the laundromat.This guy
named Sy Rapoport, from
Long Island, he owned it
all. He had a small, hot, 
cluttered office at the
back of the noisy and
humid laundromat  -  filled
with chubby old ladies and
wifey-sorts, folding and
sorting clothes, sitting around,
or yelling at their little kids.
Sy's offcie view took it all in.
As it turned out, he owned
like 50 businesses all around 
there, St. Marks Place, around
and down the blocks. The gist 
was if you were seeking a job,
pretty much Sy was the guy who
could find you a slot; the most
simple, stupidest, cheapest slot, 
often just cash, 'no questions and
we don't even care what your
real name is.' I told him my deal.
Desperate. Hunger. Rent; all that.
He sized me up, thought a minute,
gave me an address not far off,
and said to go there and say Sy
sent me. That's how I got my 
little job, late evenings and 
night, cleaning all the dairy 
crud after the place closed. 
The rock-music crowd would 
come pelting out of the Fillmore 
East, after some concert or other,
all smattered and drugged-up,
and want food and ice cream 
and pretzels. Just like that. It 
was crazy magic. The place 
closed about 2, and all that
dairy equipment had to be, 
by law and for inspections 
at any time, cleaned and 
sterile by the next morning. 
A total pain in the ass. Little
scoops, spray hose-wires, 
milk lines, all that junk. I 
hated it. Through it I met, 
as well, Andy Bonamo, of 
whom I've written a few 
episodes back. He and the 
Mexican guy were my
'eager' co-workers. Probably 
for about 20 days. I don't 
remember. From them I
heard every imaginable
real-life horror story in
the world  -   stuff I'd 
never even dreamed 
about or imagined. I was
Avenel, remember, the
equivalent of a trailer-park
Podunk. Not a chit of class
or hip  -  no cool  -  there.
These guys had it all over
me. Sy was cool, rolling in
his dough, a big diamond ring
on his pinky, fancy Jewish
grey-stripe suit, driving 
home each night, probably 
to his fancy Long Island 
palatial estate....and 
returning each morning 
to his paper-strewn, muggy, 
laundromat office! It's for
this that people live? That's
cool. Every bit of me was
straining, at the bit. I was
seeing colors by then : the
tones of the entire world
all changing in my hands.
Everything was different.
After hours, the kids would
never leave, never want to 
leave. It was good for Andy,
and Jose too, because all they
ever did was peddle pot and 
stuff to the kids. A real 
payday some nights. I 
really didn't want to get 
involved  -  I did and I 
didn't. All that money 
was cool; I was less so.
It was just a scene I 
couldn't make. too hot 
by far. I didn't need nor
desire it. Yeah, all those 
girls around were wonderful.
Amazing happenings  -  the
usual stupidities too. Dumb,
stupid, suburban kids 
overdoing everything, 
with no knowledge of
anything. Too stoned for
the train home, not aware, 
nor remembering what 
they'd meant to do. People
passing out, zonked and 
stoned. Girls and guys 
making out, or just falling
asleep together, propped up
on some wall. I just left it 
all alone. I hooked up, like 
I said, with Andy  -  a place 
to sleep, and then, with the
expense of an apartment 
and rent, all of a sudden, 
a roommate too, who said 
he'd cover all the costs. 
Great. That was cool.

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