Sunday, July 10, 2016


Three were a couple of old-line
hotels still building their fame,
back in '67. Marlton, Albert,
Chelsea, Washington Square.
I've written of one, I called
the Miasma Arms Hotel, along
8th street. There were a hundred
oddities a minute each one of
them. They were, to begin,
small enough as to be still
comfortable and eccentric
about things. Just minor
walkups, except for The
Chelsea, which was already
grandiose and aware of itself
- but believe me, folks, these
were genuine places. No
fooling on that score  - people
would just wash up there like
a long tide of sea-weed clad
misfits, and simply end up
on the steps or in the lobby,
with their seven bucks maybe
to get in. These were gadget places
humanoid frenzies of the bizarre
and freaky. Crankpots (and
crackpots too) who later got
famous, the morphoid cretins
of rock and roll fame, the twisted
writers, the artists, the random
log of fey intellectuals with half a
book to their name, or five trunks
of scribbled notes for the massive
tome they were assembling which
would answer all the world's
questions forever (Ok, OK, I
admit, now I've got that). They
just stopped there. Not everyone
moved on. Hendrix, Mapplethorpe,
Smith, Dylan, Cass Eliot, Sebastian,
Cohen  - and I'm not even going
on past that point. They all
splashed in like loose paint,
seeping the edges and forming
the drips and splatters. (By the
way, I hate using only last names
like that, but it's all just not
worth more  -  I was not on a
first-name basis with anyone;
don't get me wrong, and half
these people I wouldn't even
WANT to know, but all these
names and faces, it's like a
cultural fart, just seeping
around, you can't help the
knowledge of them). These
now-legendary little hotels,
they today sport plaques and
signs about themselves and
their heydays, but otherwise
it's all gone. The dregs are
dead or dying, the stories are
told and written. Occasionally,
whenever they need money yet
again, your friendly public-TV
stations will run a documentary
or something about these days
and subjects  -  bragging on,
using old people from the day
to attest to it all, and then put
their hand out. 'Money, it
takes money, we need your
donation, now, for without it
we wouldn't be able to bring
shows like this to you, wonderful
and evocative moments of our
still-vital past....' Then the other
announcer says : 'blah, blah,
blah, blah, and everyone applauds
and sends checks, because, yes,
yes, they too feel it and want
again to be part of it all. Blah.
Blah. Blah. It's folk music, it's
the 'mighty wind' all over again.
There are real, sympathetic cases
of authenticity all around. In these
times I'm writing on  -  the old
flickerings of a New York City,
not quite dead yet  -  authenticity
was still everywhere. It's difficult
to say what I mean by the use of
that word, but think of it as meaning
'bare'. Nothing at all Rococo about
what was then. The streets were
dark and gloomy, the air was
dank and brown, and if you drank
the standing or the river waters,
you'd die. That totally harsh and
cranky guy in the National Book
Store at Astor Place, the one I
wrote about a while back, he
was about as authentic as you
can get. Nowadays, he'd be
fired in an instant by the corporate
geek-suits whose jobs as regional
managers and district this or thats
have them float around to each
different (but exactly the same)
store in their corporate realm
and enforce all the same displays
and formats and approaches. (I
know this; I spent 8 years as a
'manager' in the Barnes & Noble
mish-mash). You can't even buy
anything anymore anywhere,
without some semi-literate 
sugar-bound pimple-face first 
asking if you have the membership 
card, want to join, are a preferred
shopper-level person, etc. They've
tight-laced everything now so
that the enforced niceness of the
humanoid clerks ties everything
up first into knots and balls of
twine from which you cannot
extricate yourself. 'Just check
me out and shut the bleep up,
OK?' Yeah that guy at National
wouldn't have lasted a week
anywhere, but  authentic, real,
and in your face about cool stuff.
Now he's probably someone's
90-year old Uncle Sid, drooling
in a chair somewhere and still
cursing things out. I love it.
The Greenwich Hotel was at
160 Bleecker Street. One day I was
leaving Newark, across the Jersey
Meadows, in my little Renault
4CV, a free car I'd gotten from
someone's junkyard tow  -  left
a note on the window that read,
'if you're junking this, I'll take
it from you.' The guy called, and
said come get it. One or two minor
repairs later, it was running and
mine. A tiny little Euro car, a
real death-trap around here,
back then anyway. But it ran
good enough, and was pretty
cool. It had a 'city' horn, and a
'country' horn  -  two different
sounds, entire. So, I was driving
back in this car, and hitchhiking
along Route One, in the area
before leaving Newark, entering
the area for the skyway, and there
were these two people, a guy and
a girl, hitchhiking. I stopped and
picked them up  -  they wanted
a ride into the city, no problem,
and said they were looking for the
Greenwich hotel. To which I took
them. free taxi ride for sure. The
neat thing was, they were both
Paris kids, in from France,
vagabonding around, dressed
like the usual, cliched hippies
of the day. Going on in like a
half French-half English speech
about 'thank you for the ride, we
are visiting, traveling about, can
you bring us to the Hotel Greenwich,
do you know it, where it is?' I was
about their age, maybe a year or
two older if any, and it was very
particular and special to meet two
others from somewhere else afar.
They seemed engrossing, very
involved, and caught into many
of the same apparent outlooks and
concerns as I was. It was all there;
it wasn't like I'd picked up two
Elks Lodge idiots, or two
heavy-college geeks, or two
laborers. They were airy, loose
open, and happy. Like sunlight 
in the car. We almost didn't need
to communicate to understand
each other's beings.
By the way, I got them to the 
Greenwich, no problem at all,
got the thanks, merci, hug and
peck, see ya'. It was pretty great.
It was 1969, maybe. The Greenwich
Hotel at 160 Bleecker has long 
since closed its doors. There still 
is an operation running by the name, 
and believe it or not, over on the 
west end of Tribeca, it's a quite 
successful and famed place, of 
high repute, now operated under 
the auspices of Robert DeNiro  
-  yes, the actor. Over the last 
decade or two, DeNiro has 
branched out into owning 
restaurants, and bars, and
hands-on managing them too.
This is his stab at hoteliery.
When the big, hip dudes come
to visit NYC, this is one of the
places they stay. If my one foot
had a 6th toe, that would be
pretty authentic, I guess. This
new hotel, compared to the old,
and all its ambience and legend,
is about like that.

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