Tuesday, August 23, 2016


All the things I never was
have not come back to haunt
me, so it never bothers me
much. The good thing about
it is that the 'what I was'
instead allows me to walk
with my head held high. I
just can't much care about
others. I walk past the
Judson Memorial Church  -
the tower, big room, little
room  -  and it's all still
there, somehow, ragged
and dumber looking, maybe,
but still there. Back in the
days of Vietnam, that was
a real hub, a center of protest
and hiding out. Daily posted,
the names and number-counts
of the dead. All those now
useless-shits, victims of the
Government. Coffins, the
gabardine graveyards, the
mumbling idiot preachers.
Well after the war was 'over',
but not the ruins or the
aftermath, I used to find it
so odd that, up at Riverside
Church, a whole other section
of town, the Rector's name
was William Sloane Coffin,
doing often pretty much
the same thing. Irony of
all ironies. Judson Church
played at everything  -  there
was a dance group, protest
encampments, hunger-strikers,
hippie food-kitchen crap, 
and the rest. Right across 
the street, Washington 
Square Park, another 
place filled with
the rabble, the debris, 
the detritus then of all our
cast-off America ways.
The Studio School was
just a minor jaunt away.
The back end of MacDougal
Alley, where I 'lived'  -
having access at the
rear-door of the Studio 
School (Jim Tomberg's 
sculpture studio, in fact  
-  see early chapters 
about  all that), had 
recently been covered
over by some 1960's
modern-grotesque pile
of apartment junk, and 
I often wondered what 
it must have been like  -  
for the light and the 
height and all  -  before
it went up. It essentially 
had sealed-in the Alley, 
which I guess is what an 
alley is anyway but this 
belies the entire idea of 
how quaint and small-scale
everything was. Gas-lamps
and cobblestones and all.
This towering monstrosity
had been allowed to take 
over. On the street itself, 
outside, I'd not really even
minded it  - doormen, 
parking garage entry area, 
all that. What was annoying
was the way it had crimped
the alley, and changed the
light. I was an artist, after 
all; light and all that. One 
cool thing was that, on the 
corner of Fifth and 8th, 
the apartment building
had this thing in the lobby,
which lobby anyone could 
enter, and stare at for 
however long one cared to  
-  it was just a stupid, long 
piece of clear plastic pipe, 
but through it, and quite 
visible, all the time, they 
had this slightly yellowish, 
gurgling water running 
through. They claimed it 
was the still-active 
remnant of Minetta Brook  -
the ancient swamp and
stream that had once
ran along these very
places. Of course, of 
course, over two hundred 
years the entire location 
had been altered, cut, 
removed, leveled and 
built on, yes, but this 
was the original proof 
remnant of all that
had been lost. For 
whatever reason, 
they were bragging
about it. I suppose, 
when you come right 
down to it it could 
have been sewage
or just their own 
bathwater drains 
running down from
twenty floors up, but 
I believed it to be what 
they said. That's kind 
of what anything comes 
down to anyway : 
Life as a believable
series of unbelievable
things, let's say, with 
one thing sequenced after
the other, ad infinitum, 
(or at least what 'appears'
as infinite to us). Some 
believe all, some believe 
some. But no one, ever, 
believes in nothing at all.
Washington Square Park, in 
the very old days, had been 
an execution grounds, a military
exercise field, a potters field
for burials, singly and masse.
Minetta Brook and Minetta 
Swamp and Minetta Street,
they all ran around there.
The entire city of New York
hides heavy layers of multiple
identities anyway  -  if anyone
ever cares enough to search 
or learn about it or ferret out
the information. I always did,
and it was the coolest stuff in
the world. You get a dumping
ground like lower Manhattan,
you kill all the Indians, have 
two or three major, nasty,
killing riots over the years   -
piles of dead, slaves and blacks,
Irish and Italians, all the rest.
Dead bodies everywhere. Plus
massive death-epidemics of
cholera and smallpox and all 
sorts of immigrant epidemics
due to cramped housing, bad 
and foul water, bugs, vermin, 
rodents, dead pigs and horses
everywhere, heat, feces  -  the
place was a nightmare all right
through the 1880s and so. Then, 
all of a sudden, the really rich
assholes  -  who'd gotten what 
they'd, pretty much, by stripping
the skin off people, workers and 
their wag- slaves  -   they start
getting all haughty above living
in their fancy townhomes and
brownstones  -  facing this or that
park and location as the city grew
uptown. Mr. and Mrs. My-Shit-
Don't-Stink, now living on the
fringes of Poverty parks and
swamps of miserable others, 
then begin isolating themselves, 
roping off their big-ass neighbrohoods,
claiming real estate for themselves,
leveling and strafing everything, 
and then by 1800, with the 
so-called 'Commisioners Plan' 
laying down a massive grid-design 
for control and commercial 
venture  -  stretching a hideous 
but so-convenient number-and-
right-angle uniform street plan.
Hilltops, rock-sides, streams, 
rivers, swamps, encampments, 
little towns and villages along 
the way in the isolated, deep 
parts of the 'other' Manhattan  
-  all destroyed, cut, leveled, 
filled-in, dynamite, by a huge 
public works project for a few
pennes a day paid to peons until
they dropped (hopefully) dead 
on the job. Rabble is easy to 
replace and easy to get rid of
too. Keeps the vermin busy.
Well...that's where I was, 
and that's what they did  -
but at least they were nice
enough to show you the
water they'd taken away.

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