Saturday, June 18, 2016


One thing to note, or a way of
pointing it out anyway, was how
amazing I found it to be living
amidst people I'd only read about
before. Not everyone goes through
that  -  most people, maybe, read
about Uncle Horace in an old
sports page their mother saved,
or something, and there, before
them, is some rickety old man
introduced as Uncle Horace,
from Utah, or somewhere, their
mother's oldest brother, who ran a
hundred-yard return back in 1951
for the University of Kitchagoomie
or something like that. This was all
different. For me : I was living with
legends, the artist and the writers
I'd learned about. Here, here it was,
at the White Horse, that the poet
Dylan Thomas had gagged himself
near to death in his drunken, poetic
stupidity and, along the way, passed
out, collapsed, to die right over there,
at St. Vincent's. This here IS where
Auden lives, over there is the home
of Marcel Duchamp, here Dorothy
Day, there Andy Warhol, and there
Allen Ginsberg too. I won't say the
list was endless, but after a while I
had enough names and presences,
most certainly, to fill your pockets
and bloomers too, with, sweetheart.
And you didn't even need to know 
who they all were, because they
were part of me. Part of me just 
like that Wednesday evening 
mid-week mad smog was, the 
gushing of all those cars belching 
their smoke and grime on the 
Eighth Street windows of time.
I had, for all practical purposes,
located and stilled, or killed 
even, that old me  -  the Avenel 
one of limited references, 
improper schooling, dazed 
lookings out to the world, and
replaced it properly with the 
one I wanted. Like Moses, 
I had gone to the mountaintop 
I'd been called to, and I'd come 
back scarred, but filled with
message and portent and 
meaning. Now, if I could
only get the rabble to stop
worshiping that damned 
golden calf.
It's a very different thing, 
and a hard to explain one 
as well, to experience such 
an environment from the 
inside out. You can read
about Paris and all the 
ex-patriot American writers
who'd been there, but you
still haven't experienced it.
This was enthralling, it was
an open environment that 
just sucked me in  -  lines
and words and verbs and 
actions, everywhere 
swirling. How to explain 
it? Everything was 
swirling alive. I'd go 
home now and then, 
bus or train, no reason
but mostly to see my 
girlfriend let's say, and 
once I arrived I'd realize 
everything was dead. The
streets were dead, windows 
and stores and houses, 
schools and factories and 
lumberyards, cars and 
lawnmowers and sheds
and driveways. All dead. 
There was nowhere to go. 
Nothing a'foot, except envy 
and hostility. Something 
strange, everywhere, and
no longer to my liking one 
bit. If that was 'America', I 
wanted none of it. I'd scurry
back to the city, and feel 
alive, at least, and know 
and experience all else as 
alive, vibrant, real, and
working. If THAT was
America, I'm there! It 
seemed as if every person, 
guy, girl, man or woman, 
whatever their back-stories 
and situations, were more 
to me in a second than
two hours with anything 
on that vast 'other' side of 
the tunnels and the bridges. 
Different meanings and 
different situations, all.
Everywhere I went, the vast
'old' was still around. I was in
the building in which Stuart
Davis, the artist, took a 
stipend from  -  Gertrude
Vanderbilt Whitney and
Juliana Force purchasing 
two of his paintings, back 
then, to get him started on his
way to Paris - when my place right
here was the newly-opened 1918 
'Whitney Studio Club,' taking
in artists from the recently 
disbanded Henri school 
(artists around the artist
Robert Henri), Edward
Hopper among them. Well,
that's where I was, and that's
the place I was living. 
Incredible. This 'history
lends special resonance' to
my days. The spiritual 
forbears and the wickedly
racking ghosts of the sounds
and sights I'd see in those
weird basement rooms and 
cubbies. Everything was 
there, all together and as 
at once. It was not 'at once', 
of course  -  because the 
spectral time which carries 
these things does not have 
'moments' of  linearity as 
we know it, just, instead, 
overlaps, scrims, and
suggested pictures.
It's all, in fact, overlap. 
One other thing I realized 
was that, in that traditional 
arts there was no separation 
between sorts. Writing, painting, 
poetry, prose, plays, dance, 
photography, drawing, etching, 
graphics, sculpture, they all
went together. It was only the 
bullshit merchant-world that
put distinctions and made the
differentiations between them,
so they could fill in the blanks 
with their filthy lucre. (This 
goes for then. I know nothing 
of the 'now', when all things 
in the arts have become 
confessional, trite, pompous, 
rash, and stupid. Filled with a
preening pomposity and irony, 
and, as well, a monolithic political
culture and a 'correctness' so
blatant it would still kill Jesus).
Unfortunately, since the days of
my yore, that's what 'art-schools'
as well have become : rational
underpinnings for merely a
'successful career'. Might as 
well be jaded too. Forget any
of that 'muscularity' in paint,
of the Jackson Pollock days.
I was convinced there was 
another world, and I was right, 
and I knew it. Milton Resnick,
famed artist, had given me his 
three thin volumes of poetry 
written in Amsterdam, 
Rotterdam, Hamburg, and 
Paris too. It reiterated for me
the crossover of the arts, again,
into each other. David Hare,
famed artist, would show me
his things, and writing and 
drawings too, and I knew there
was a one-soul crossover into
everything together; the vast
and creative melange of another
form of existence  -  which I
was convinced and determined
to grab and stay with. And I
did, and I had. Right up the
street from me, a few doors
off, had been The Jumble Club, 
and across from that, Romany 
Mary's, Wilentz's Eighth
Street Bookstore. In the other 
direction had been Hans Hoffman's
little studio art-school grouping,
and the 10th Street artists and
their insular but groundbreaking
gallery scene. The present 
was in the past, for me, and
vice-versa, and the 
rest be damned.

No comments: