Wednesday, July 6, 2016


'This is the world you have,
and if you believe it.' I've been
a writer my entire life, and most
people have always seemed to
know that, or sense something
of it anyway. It sure was often
funny. One time in the Studio
School a guy I shared some studio
space with came in one day and
said he had a book for me, one
that I just had to buy, and read.
Wilentz's famous bookstore on
8th street was right across the
street, so after he'd told me
what it was, I went to buy it.
I still have it, in fact, right
here now in front of me. Books
back then were like $1.75,
which is the price of this one,
stamped large on the back.
My painter friend (more on him
next chapter) had told me this
book was as absurd to him as
anything I'd ever said, written,
drawn, or painted, in his view.
He said it was 'me', through and
through, and I'd love it. Actually,
that would have me hate it, for
I did not ever wish to meet myself
coming the other way, or find that
I was doing something in the exact
mode that someone else was doing.
As it turned out, it was maybe close,
but far too anal and detail-oriented
in its approaches and ways for the
sort of writing, of these things,
I'd do. But, no matter. He'd called
the book, by Richard Brautigan,
'Trout Fishing in America.' Which
was the title, still is. I raced across
the street, to Wilentz's, and asked
for 'Trout Fishing In the United
States,' which promptly elicited a
groan of some proportion from the
clerk, who proceeded to chide me
on my incorrect designation of
the title. 'Uh oh,' I replied, 'that's
called 'Titular Homicide' in police
lingo.' The smug little hippie
bastard didn't even crack a smile.
So then I said, 'I've just come
from having sex with your
mother and your sister, over on
9th street, at the Royal Pip Hotel
where we meet each Thursday.
They said to say hello if I saw
you.' OK, OK, just kidding on
that last crack. It was just his
mother. No, kidding there too.
So, anyway, I went across the
street and got the book. That
was, like, Oct. '67, maybe. This
Brautigan guy is dead now, having
committed some form of suicide
I cannot recall. I hope, of course,
it wasn't over something as trite
as me getting the title of his
book wrong but, hey, stranger
things have happened and this
whole 'suicide' thing is weird.
(In Latin, 'sui' is 'self', as in
'sui generis' being, as it were,
'self-generated, authenticized
by self, one of a kind.' Thus,
sui-cide, like geno-cide or
homo-cide. Got that?)...The
self-death of anyone is traceable
to a hundred disappointments,
or a million little pin-point things,
or, perhaps, to one vast and large
thing. Who's to say. In 1967, I'd
have to say it never entered my
mind. I guess I was too oblivious,
and all things were too fresh to
me, to think about like that. Now,
50 plus years later, I'd have to say
it's always on my mind and, yes,
often held out as an option. No
part of it, however, yet makes
sense to me. Perhaps if and
when it does, you'll know. I
could almost, just almost, see
it on my horizon, but I'm sure
just regular death will come to
me first. Whatever.
This was New York, and all I
was doing was absorbing. On just
about every corner, and more,
there was a little store, a bodega,
as it were  -  Spanish, all sort of
incidental and household stuff
needed, Raid, roach killer, candles,
food, drinks, beer, fruits and
vegetables usually also sold
out front on shelves and bins.
It  was all petty much different
than today. All of that is still
done, yes, but now it's all different.
Cold water, sold everywhere,
in bottles; refrigeration now
keeps the fruits & vegetables more
fresh, with mist and spray, and
cooling. Before, it was just all on
ice, if you were lucky. They still
have things on beds of ice, but it's
no longer the central factor. A
chair or two, back then, out front,
would act as the attractant for the
locals to come out, stand or sit
around for hours; long, hot nights,
and just talk or watch. Cold beer,
soda, watermelon, cigarettes. It was,
in spite of all else, all the city frenzy,
still a lazy old, slowed-down world
from these vantage points. Every
couple of buildings had its own store,
by allegiance anyway. 'If you live
in this building, that's where you go.
That's Frankie's place, Frankie takes
care of us, y'unnerstand?' And it was
so  -  Frankie would hold things for
people, run tabs, or have to, and be 
told sometimes to whom and how to
sell things. Frankie had to probably
'pay' some money back too, to the
local hoods, or the strong-arm of
the mob, run numbers, hide this or
that. It was Martin Scorcese, (I knew
his down-at-luck, glum brother, also
named Frankie), who said that those
immigrant buildings in Little Italy
each had a location attached. If you
came from Pantolino, say, in Italy,
when you got here you were
directed  to #81 Sullivan Street,
as an example at random. That
was the Pantolino building. Most,
or many, of the people in there
would also be from the Pantolino
area  -  chances are, there'd even
be people you knew. Same with
any village or town name, they
each had a connection or region
anyway. He said that's how people
took care of each other, offered
protection, covered each other's
actions. Strange place, new land,
new city. I could see that. Sometimes,
even, and this was fairly prevalent
too with buildings all over the
upper west side, the old buildings
had names, carved in the stonework,
over the doorways : 'The Trieste',
The Budapest', 'The Dierbronck'',
'The Trento'. It was all fairly
simple, and you'd just, most often,
try to go to where your connections
were. People, upon leaving the old
world in Cammoruto, were told to
look up, once they arrived here, L.
Rinaldo, in such and such the
building, the Cammoruto
building, as it were.
The Brautigan book, I absorbed.
I was right there with the
flavor of the entire thing,
attuned well to the guy,
Richard Brautigan, and his
words and approach. I could
see exactly what he was
doing, and though in most
all respects it was a bit too
arch for me, too much ironic
detailing (that kind of thing
always seemed cheap to me),
I could easily stay with it and,
in point of fact, see it as a
in doing some of this stuff.
Instead of 'slamming with an
iron fist,' this was more just
slamming with an irony fish.'
That was good enough, and,
perhaps at one time, right then,
something I really needed. I've
had plenty of the 'heavies' since
then. If, perhaps, you ever get
the chance, pick yourself up a
copy of this book. I see it on,
for instance, Amazon, in a
range of $4 - to - 94 cents.
For a perfect example of
what I'm referring, go to the
chapter on page 22, entitled
'Sea Sea Rider' and read the
absurd sex-romp it presents.
This was street stuff to me,
at age 18, the bizarre and
always absurd world which
was presented to me. It was
as if I myself was an
astronaut, on some strange,
interplanetary trip through
a cosmos I'd neither been
prepped on nor taught about.
Let me face it, here, Brautigan's
book, in that social climate of
those years, was more in the vein
of 'music' and countercultural
rock n' roll than it was about
'literature,' of which it was
very little. I wouldn't be so 
surprised, in point of fact, 
to learn that three-quarters 
of the fucked-Jewboy pap in
Bob Dylan's 'Tarantula'  - a
highly-vaunted but centerless
piece of drivel  -  had not had
its style, content and entirety
pretty much purloined from the
workings of  'Trout Fishing In
America', and 'the Springhill 
Mining Disaster' (its companion
piece) as well. I always hated
when people mixed up 'genres'.
All these creepy music guys 
were pretty valueless, and just
more caught up in the tribal
publicity/marketing ploy than
anything  - all those Paul Simon,
Bob Dylan, David Byrne, Johnnie
Cougar Mellencamp, Blondie
types  -  the entire, mucky 
boatload  -  play their run 
through all that crap and then start
being writers and 'artists' besides.
Through their lenses, it's all the
same, pretty much : me, me, me.
Tme it's was vampy crapness.
The only one, maybe, that I see
now with any staying-power and
ballsy-enough 'centeredness' to
keep it level, is Patti Smith. The
rest all just seems like 'Brand X'.
On east 11th street, pretty much 
all the living that first Summer  -  
not just for me, no, I mean for 
everyone  -  was done outdoors, on
the street, above it on fire escapes,
or in the park nearby. There were huge
factions of people  -  they crossed, but 
never really intermingled. The
newcomers were all hippies, just
dropped down, like flyshit from some
vast mother-ship somewhere; a weird
fairy-dust of kids, wispy long-hair, 
beads, peasant-shirts and clothing. The 
guys acted mostly gay  -  as it would be 
called now  -  wan, weak, effeminate, 
indeterminate. Not the flashy, 
demonstrative and fluffy gay stuff.
Just weak and wasted. Like a tambourine 
commercial. The girls exuded some 
bizarre,  very tasty, other-worldly 
sexuality that had to be seen to be 
understood. It's a wonder there wasn't a 
rape a minute. Hell, maybe there was;
I wouldn't know. The problem was in 
mixing such a sexual exuberance with
a form of naivete. It spelled trouble :
the old-line New York guys knew it, and
they could spell and they could tell just
the who and the how of getting these girls
right down to basics. A lot of premise,
with little promise. Know what I mean?
That entire 'wham-bam-thank you ma'am'
thing was constantly underway. The New
York originals were getting it all.
Anyway, the Brautigan stuff was where
 I was : on page 15, the whole Cobra Lily
thing, 'The Ballet For Trout Fishing In
America'  -  so wasteful and absurd. You
see, when a writer writes something  - 
indifferent, ironic, or smug (this is
all three), whatever he or she includes
is immediately psychotic. You too MUST
accept it to keep in on the game the writer
has started. If the writer creates a 'giant blue
birthday cake filled with words made of
putty, and from which Indians emerge' you
have to accede to that  -  even if it's patently
stupid, without meaning, or absurd.
That's what writing, in this vein, is. A
talented, rock-music, form of hippie play,
junk writing, some disposable Jello of 
words. He's got it, he did it, it's all still
around, and you really ought to read it.

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