Friday, August 12, 2016


I used to be in New York and
I used to laugh when I'd think
of my mother and some of the
things she used to say or do.
Being where I was then,
everything looked different,
so that some of her ways and
acts were just plain funny or
quirky. Like whenever something
seemed cheap to her, she'd say
it was 'chintzy.' I never knew,
at first, what that was. But there
is a fabric called 'Chintz' and I
guess that was the reference.
Something cheesy but made to
look expensive. Yes, there was
a lot of poverty in New York,
and I even saw cliche-types of
apartments with furniture in
clear plastic  -  long-running
joke  -  by the sorts of folk,
mostly Brooklyn, who'd get
something new, in this case
furniture, and intend to keep
it that way, even after use.
I never knew why, or what
they were thinking, but then
again I never asked. The
definition now of 'chintzy' is
'cheap, and low'. Originally it
was some sort of slightly
shiny Indian (south Asia)
fabric. I don't know where
my mother picked the word
up from, but what was funny
about it was that to urbanites
and New York City dwellers,
no matter what else, there
was nothing more cheesy
and cheap than the crummy
living that people did in
'New Joisey.' Now, for them,
THAT was chintzy. How
to figure all that, I really
didn't know. It just all
seemed a mixed-up world.
Down at 11th street it was
always noisy  -  big Spanish
culture back then, Puerto
Ricans and all. (That's all
gone now, and I can't say
when I last saw or heard
anything, I mean anything
at all, about Puerto Ricans,
Spics, whatever as a sub-culture.
Even their entire little
country-dependency or
whatever it is, having now
just gone broke and asking
the USA for billions of dollars,
caused not even the tiniest of
stirs. The old 1960 play and
then movie, West Side Story,
a kind of remake of Romeo
and Juliet with the Sharks
and the Jets as clashing
Puerto Rican street gangs
in conflict and some babe
loving the wrong side  -
the usual balderdash. The
entire home base of the real
1960's Puerto Rican culture,
and 1950's, was the area torn
down for Lincoln Center, by
1964. It was called 'San Juan
Hill', a referent-name to the
people who lived there, and it
was row after row of deep
tenements and people living
vertically, and in the street
with their vibrancy. Much
like the Lebanese, downtown,
electronics district  -  all
removed and torn down for
the World Trade Center a
little later, the neighborhoods
were razed, the people
displaced, and thousands
just sent out to their own
fates  -  mostly the newer,
rim-district project houses.
San Juan Hill became the
'Lincoln Center District','
by 1967, for sure, and all
the faked out Hoity-Toits
started moving in to their
new luxury high-rises, so
they could dress, dine, and
go to the opera in one fell
swoop without having to
trip over Spics. Let it be also
noted that gay creeps of the
Leonard Bernstein sort made
millions off the backs of these
people (they got zilch) by
fudging up his Heeb operatics
in West Side Story, and all,
to tell the made-up entertainment
fantasy tale, as it were. of what
in fact never happened anyway.
Typical. What was slavery, what
was exploitation, I ask, next
to that? I knew a girl back
then, from there  -  her family
displaced to some crummy
new bunker-style high-rise
in Queens or somewhere.
She had been old enough
to just walk away, and
re-settled herself in the
w80's of Manhattan. Her
name was (very cool name
I always loved to hear)
Juanita Elefante. She
never forgave the authorities
for what they had done  -
to her, her family, and her
people. Now THAT was
chintzy behavior, in my
book; on their part I
mean, not hers. Juanita, 
by the way, maybe ten 
years later, had landed 
a really good position at
Channel 13, later PBS,
in the Production/Graphics
Department. Their building
then was somewhere in 
the west 50's, or low 
west 60's. Maybe even 
still is. Lost touch.
Down by me, on 11th
street, all those Hispanics
were still about. Absolutely
no one displaced them,
nor sought to  -  let alone
absentee slumlords who 
never much cared anyway. 
This culture lived on the
street and was all about 
the street. Lithe young 
girls, budding and fetching 
already, went about in tight
clothing, and scantily. The
Summertime was theirs, 
and thankfully so. With 
all that, it was always 
funny to me to see how
the Spanish guys, no 
matter what, still leered 
and drooled over any
other white, or black, 
NY princess who walked 
by. It was as if their own
stable of playmates could 
not possibly have been 
enough. At this time, as 
noted, there was a huge 
influx of hippies along 
these streets, and hippie 
girls, I daresay, in the heats
of all those Summer days, 
were most often the very 
worst of the supposed 
(non-existent, of course)
dress code of the streets.
It was never only the tar 
that was bubbling up. What's
most funny now is how, 50 
years later, in another part of
the city totally, (uptown) both
the Puerto Rican Day Parade
and the Dominican Day Parade
are hotbeds of trouble  -  nudity, 
rape, assault, it all goes on.
Endemic to those cultures?
Perhaps; but most likely not.
They are just the most 
vociferous, and actively
demonstrative, of it. Just
like then.
In the middle of all this was
me; trying to survive and get 
by. If you remember, my first 
days in New York were spent 
with just these sorts  -  musical,
loud, Puerto Ricans playing 
all their live musics in Tompkins
Square Park in their inimitable,
exhibitionist, percussionist,
ways. All chintz.

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