Saturday, August 20, 2016


You know how drama has
its 'catharsis'? Well, I kept
waiting for mine. It never
came. Even in the dog-tired
middle of my own New
York City (face it, it was
my own, and I'd made it
up. The place I imagined,
it didn't really exist  -  all
those old players and
places just waiting for
me. I'm still sorry, to this
day, that one listens to me
or heeds my words. It was
like that then too : All the
echoes and hollers of an
old, ghostly, empty corridor).
The writer Dawn Powell,
about 1963, wrote of
New York, and New
York's Greenwich Village:
"where all night long the
typewriters click, people
sing in the streets,
hurdy-gurdys go all day
and the laundry boy reads
Turgenev." Pretty much
that was it. I lived amidst
a something of my own
mind's lock and key, but,
I survived. Many years
later, like 1999-2006, I
had some Barnes & Noble
years. They too were fun,
and somewhat enlightening,
but that was all nothing
but the modern age. It
was funny, because, on
18th street, or whatever
it was, and Fifth Avenue,
about 1977, they had their
first 'flagship' store. It
was just before they
really took off with all
that 'superstore' stuff and
some eventual 750 stores
all over the country ('except
in Georgia', as we always
pointed out back then).
 At first my big excitement
was that it was to be a
newer extension of those 
old, crusty Fourth Ave.
book shops that used 
to line the avenue, but it
wasn't to be. It was all
commercialism  -  rows
of cash registers, bargain
books, cut-outs, remainders.
Pretty much  -  including 
records and music  -  all that
the superstores later became,
less the cafe, which hadn't
yet made a Starbucks 
connection to be emplaced
in each store. The big book
that year was 'Mommie 
Dearest', by some perverse
actress lady. I can't remember
the name right now, and don't
really care  - about beating 
her kids with coat hangers
and such. A stupid disaster,
but it was the first time, ever,
that I'd seen, and realized,
gay people  -  guys I mean  - 
lined up for some 'iconic'
woman's output to which 
they were somehow 
connected. It was an
unstoppable moment  -  
and only after it did I
begin seeing their same 
reactions to like Judy 
Garland, Marilyn 
Monroe, and all that.  
Such the weirdness
of the book business. 
Anyway, that little 
spot at Fifth and 18th, 
it became a regular
hangout for me, a 
handy spot; endless 
book stuff, all these
intense, leftist student
types spouting about the
Sandanistas, and Archbishop
Romero, or something. I
used to get a kick out of
listening to these Jewish, 
bookish Marxist types,
actually 'spitting' out the
word 'Nicaragua' just like
the Spanish do, kind of
burying the syllables real
fast in a guttural spit-voice,
like gurgling on the 'G'. 
Made me laugh. I called
it 'their G-Spot.'
By the year about 1999
when I was in a New Jersey
Barnes & Noble, in a basic
management position, I got
to see all of this from the 
other side; how management 
thought about the stores, 
pushing 'Books' as product 
and nothing more, overloading,
packing cheesy best-sellers, 
pulp, self-help, and new age 
crap everywhere, having a
customer trip over junk all
along the way in, down what
was referred to as the 'power
aisle'  -  which you were 
 to keep loaded up with a
well-designed, constantly
changing, store-plan, 
corporate design layout 
of  popular books, tie-ins,
any and all upcoming 
holiday junk, Mother's 
Day, Father's Day, etc.,
books connected to TV
and movies, personalities,
recent deaths (and births 
too, maybe. I foget). 
Harry Piddling Potter, 
Princess Di (Princess Die
we called her  -  her death 
was great for business). 
It was all pretty hideous, 
and sure made a shambles 
of the 'book' business as 
idea, let alone as a relic 
of the old Fourth Avenue
book trade. My dreams
and memories had simply 
become nightmares. Plus,
all the kids working under
me, as hip and pierced 
and tattooed as their 
well-sought personal 
freedom allowed did
sometimes bug me (I used 
to begrudge them their 
not knowing of the travails 
and anguish and work 
people like myself and 
my swarming generation 
went through to get them 
all their loose, shitty, 
lackadaisical ways and 
'Freedoms'). By this time
I was like mid-50's, in
age, to their maybe 
mid-20's. It got only a
little difficult, at times,
to keep up and 
understand. Even the 
really 'literate' ones,
all they much cared 
of was the super-hip 
writers of the moment,
to them: Paul Bowles, 
Jonathan Franzen,
Jonathan Safran Foer,
and of course David
Foster Wallace. It was
really just a culture 
of degraded taste, in 
a way. And I just put 
up with it. Sometimes
I just really didn't 
know what to do. 
One year, at Halloween 
time, in Edison, NJ, 
one of the richer kids, 
while his parents
were away, opened 
his house up for a
night party  -  to which
I was invited. I tried 
to beg off, but gave 
in to their pleadings
to show up. Worst 
thing I ever did. When 
I got there, about 8pm,
there was nasty, clown
porno playing, all 
night, on the big TV, 
and, in that same other 
room, amidst all the 
noise, food and booze 
(and God knows what 
else)  -  I never moved 
from the kitchen
entry from where 
I'd entered  -  costumed
people fornicating all
over the place. Hello.
Goodbye. Glad I 
stopped in.

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