Sunday, August 28, 2016


There really was a place
named 'Alice's Polish
Restaurant.' It was  -  I
don't think it's still there,
but who knows  -  at
Avenue A and 1st
Street  -  just an odd
sit-down restaurant like
there used to be. You
could get these huge
slabs of waffles or
pancakes, piled high,
for cheap, and worth
eating. For a while there
was a motor-scooter club
that used to meet there,
on Sunday mornings. A
real goofy bunch, on
little putt-putt scooter
things, like old British
types, Vespas and Wasps,
and hipster kids, girls in
pink helmets and jackets.
Really, there wasn't anything
hard-core about them, just
scooter riders and a little
self-conscious fashion wear
too. 8 or 10 of them on a
good day  -  they'd all
slobber over and go in
and eat, and then I guess
they'd run off on their
scooters and terrorize
pre-schoolers, or something
Alice's was a funny place,
and that whole few blocks
right there, they were funny
too. This was all poor people
stuff, when I knew it  - I used
to clean some apartment
building hallway and stairs
and such over there, for some
15 bucks a week, if I ever got
paid, for some lazy guy at
the Studio School who was
actually also the Super of
that building and its 7 or 8
apartments. He never wanted
to clean, so he'd hire me to
go do it for him  -  I never.
minded, and I did get paid.
His top-floor apartment too
was really spacious and nice.
On those days I'd be there,
he'd let me have the run of
his place  -  lots of books and
current magazines and things.
I always enjoyed an hour or
two  -  plus he had a really
nice bathroom and shower
and all. I'd throw down that
waxy red stuff, like a dust
powder, oily, that you'd sweep
the floor with, and I'd clean
the stairwells and the front
stoop, check the maintenance
room and the trash stuff.
Nothing horrid or hard to
do. It was a bunch of Puerto
Rican families; they just
stared, never spoke much
anything, and the hallways
always smelled of their
cooking. Out front there was
usually and clutch of young
children, 5, 6, 7, years old,
I'd guess. They were always
leaping around, or throwing
balls and things  -  just city,
tenement kid stuff. They too
mostly just ignored me. I was
the type to bend down for
every found penny, the one
elated at nickels and divine
with found dimes and
quarters. Nobody else cared.
Most people anyway they
just throw their spittle and
coins into the pot without
caring  - losing loose change
seems to mean nothing to
them. I'm still the same way,
going off-course to retrieve
a penny or two. I don't know
what that phrase 'penny wise
and pound foolish' actually
meant, but I always figured
it was either how I was or
how I wasn't, except I never
knew. There were guys
down that way -  I used to
see them  -  who'd sleep
on gratings. Piles of blankets,
and some wooden pallets.
Their idea was to catch
the underground warmth
from whatever some-sort
of steam thing that was
there pumping up heat.
That's the main thing,
by the way, outside of
food and bathroom stuff,
which are no minor matters,
about being homeless. The
change of seasons, the roiling
October winds let you know
it's happening  -   cold weather.
Once that sets in, you're
stuck, and had better be
prepared. Steam-exhaust
and leak-out spots were as
good as any. And God be
with 'ya. These were good
examples of all that, and
the men were  setting up
early. LaGuardia Houses.
Nowadays there are vans
driving around and homeless
coalition people and such, on
top of all this  - almost forcibly
taking people in to shelters or
medical stuff, dentists. They
get better care than I do. All
that's fine  -  what irks is all
the flimsy psychological crap
that now goes with it  -  profiles
and interviews and assessments.
It's a wonder everyone isn't sent
to the nuthouse on those terms,
like there was some magical
clipboard 'normal' that would
keep people from bad conditions.
Everything that's free never turns
out to be that way at all. The
little thought-police end up
taking you over and watching
everything. Back then, there
was nothing like that  -  you
could die on the sidewalk
and someone would just
push your lifeless hulk
hulk aside or sit on that
sleeping/lifeless hump.
In their own way, these
guys were rulers of the world.
At least it was their world :
quite balmy  -  not the 'crazy'
meaning, I mean rather the
meaning of being 'warm'
enough from the free heat.
Really, who wouldn't ever
like free heat? They reclined
on their blankets and paper
boxes, purloined chairs and
stools, comfortable right
there. Yes, as they would
put it  -  if you could get
them to even talk about
it, or themselves, or
anything  -  the rulers of
this world were they to
be, would by no other
than 'they them very selves.'
I don't know if that's 'pigeon
English' (I never really knew
what that was), but it might as
well have been, because the
pigeons were there right
with them.
I always opposed authority;
if that was good or if that
was bad, it never mattered;
it was just, in whatever
guise. I questioned it,
in some very theatrical
ways, so as to confuse it.
Authority gets confused
very easily, if you can
get it off-track. It's pretty
simple to just talk direct
and fast right back to its
face and win any argument,
unless of course, and as
usually happens, they have
the 'power'  -  guns or force,
or whatever. That's what
makes then authority after
all, and that too is why
they must be opposed.  It's
a fairly simple circle. Once
it's closed, you're mostly
stuck inside of it. It' really
difficult to wiggle out of,
without ending up like
one of these guys.
'Freedom' sometimes just
got to be a concept anyway,
nothing more than political
or intellectual prattle, done
over-heavy and turned unreal
and useless except as an
'intellectual' currency. One
time, in one of those halls
at NYU (I went there once,
another time, to a talk given
by Viveca Lindfors, some
Swedish actress I wasn't
really sure of, but just wanted
to see and hear. Funny thing
was, some time after that she
got slashed in the face, needing
25 stitches or so, by some
marauding Greenwich Village
gang; her and some other
guy too. Random violence
is just that, I guess, no matter
how else you're situated). This
lecture, the political one, was
some crazy socialist group, a
guy spouting off endlessly, and
 a room of about 30 like-minded
people, Trotskyites for all I
knew, and bound for political
oblivion  -  like Trotsky, with
a knife or hatchet or whatever
it was (ice pick) in the head.
'We have reached the point
that the idea of liberty, an
idea relatively recent and
new is already in the process
of fading from our consciences
and our standards off morality
the point that neoliberal
globalization is in the process
of assuming its opposite  -
that of a global police state
of a terror of security and
deregulation and has ended
up in a maximum security
in a level of restriction and
constraint equivalent to that
found in fundamentalist
societies.' They were clapping
and cheering their brains out.
Can you imagine that stuff?
A roomful of it? I figured to
myself, what the hell was
going on there, what the hell
anyway did he just say? I
wasn't too sure even what
it was supposed to mean or
even it was something you
were supposed to follow
but it was considered quite
profound and all those
scientific and artsy political
minds really ate it up. They
used to be plodding along
the streets  - notebooks and
pens and all  -  all the hot-wires
running back and forth and
going on about this or that
with each other as if it
mattered.  It was a lot like
all the chess-clubs on Sullivan
Street  -  no one else cared,
but the people playing were
quite transfixed. Of course,
none of it really does matter,
because all you've got to do
is find yourself, the one
remove, the iconic distance,
to see any of it for what it
is. Posturing. The only 
answer is to laugh back
and laugh heartily in a
Tristram Shandy Jonathan
Swift sort of way because
there is nothing else but 
raw, funny power attached
to over-learned, fat scholars
bamboozling their own 
spittle as it rolls down 
cheek and collar into
believing it is truly good,
ponderous stuff and then,
in any other language
manage to say 'excuse me
I'm late for my flight' -
yeah it sure makes me 
laugh  -  and the oddball
diarist sitting at the 
counter - the brown one
with the eastern eyes in
Alice's for the morning,
just sitting, I notice he's
reading interminable 
newspapers and adding
to his scribble while he awaits
more food and coffee - huge
slabs of challah French toast,
I mean huge slabs, for $4.99
a real steal: proving he's smart
as a whiz and sharp as a tack
and the guy and the girl behind
the counter are talking a hearty
Polish back and forth while, for
my part, I guess I'm looking her
over, yes, and thinking what 
brain could possibly be better 
than that  -  if only I could tell
her I was a descendant maybe
of Count Vistula the Warrior
Prince from Poland's 17th
century deep woods, or what
became that now, she'd be sure
to run off with me and talk the
tongue into my ear as we fled
through the Dneiper Woods on
my horse and she'd be hanging
onto every inch of me while we
raced through, away from the
troops in pursuit, coming to kill
me and ravage her for all she
was worth but here instead 
she's her and I'm me and she's 
tending the huge piles of 
toast and pouring coffee.
And me, I'm sitting in place
wondering about paying while
the guy with the eastern eyes 
next over is reading and writing
all about the terror state we 
live in but over there and
above our heads yet another
TV screen is pushing some
Winter sport and outside in 
the half cold some five other
guys are starting their scooters,
revving their little engines and
strapping on helmets, and I
hear them and their engines
howling and think how such
high revs certainly do lessen
the life of the power-plant 
much like my heart again.
Little Eva the Polish 
power-plant watching me 
to watch her watching the
toast, oh boy, my God, this
is for sure what a life and
I'm so glad I could puke!

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