Tuesday, November 1, 2016


There are/were very often
times, as a writer too, that
I'll say something or write
something and then  -  often
not two days later  -  see the
same thing or close to it
somewhere else. 'Hey, I
just said that' or wrote that.
It's very disconcerting and,
really, more common to
me than you'd realize. I
have never known what
to make of it. Coincidence?
But I'm bedeviled sometimes,
at the same time, by the idea
that some other, cosmic,
'great' mind is involved
here, interdicting all these
crossovers and meshings.
Perhaps that's how thought
and some form of Human
consciousness all gets
played out. Who knows,
really? I've always been
pretty eclectic with my
outlooks - things here,
things there. I delve and
I read, a lot of things. I
need not 'agree' with
things, I'd rather just
absorb. We otherwise
spend too much time
simply entrapped in the
very mundane.
Plato to Plotinus. You
know. One of those guys,
it was, who presented this
world of ideals of which
this world is but a pale
glimmer of poor approaches
and bad approximations.
So many things. I used to
like to take in scenes and
situations, and then retell
or replay them. Which is
what I'll do hear, in a minute
when I shift the scene back
to New York City. That is,
eventually. As for right now,
1964 seminary stuff still
beckons: The world was
so much cleaner then, with
simpler stuff, operations
under control, and the
normal person just taking
in all the normal stuff.
I was like a fresh sponge,
back then, taking a soak.
One thing after the other.
My friend, John, from
Brooklyn, another seminary
runaway, fleeing a horrid
home situation. He'd say
he was just there to get
away. Confusing as all get
out. The guy was perfect.
Attired well, and well-spoken
too. He had a real thing for
theater and ballet. Rudolph
Nureyev was his big idol. I
never knew anything about
that, or ballet, and certainly
never cared. Nor all those
tired out Broadway plays,
the musical-score and
cast albums he'd be playing
all the time. From him I
first heard the phrase
'Fruity Rudy,' (about
Nureyev). Hell, from
him I first realized that
there were what's now
called 'gay' things
everywhere. Honest
to God, until I got to the
seminary I hadn't a clue
about that stuff. His
commerce in language,
on the other hand, was
all about that. I figured
it was a Brooklyn thing,
or a New York thing, or
an 'entertainment' thing.
And then I started noticing
right around me. It was an
everywhere thing! All of
a new sudden, we learn.
(Yes, that's how I wrote
that, awkward and weird,
that 'new sudden' thing is
what I wanted to write).
Not a mistake.
So, what I was saying was
how things used to be 'clean'.
They weren't if course, but
at least by appearances they
were. You only learn later who
was a screw-up, but it does
all eventually come out. Like
Donald Manes. Does anyone
remember Donald Manes? He
killed himself, but all before
that, politically, he was the
real toast of the NYC town.
I myself think the issue, in
1986, besides being 'corruption'
hinges as well on his hidden
homosexuality. That would be
too bad if so. His twin brother,
a few years later, tried to kill
himself too, in the very same
manner as Donald  -  a small
penknife-type dagger into the
heart. His attempt failed. Man
all that was weird stuff, but
it all connected, with me,
forever, in my head, with
this seminary stuff, this
entire 'Fruity Rudy' kind
For the rest of my days,
I was unduly influenced.
Which brings me to Christopher
Street, and one of the bars there,
and the Lucille Lortel Theater,
which was about as g-a-y was
you could get, in the late 70's
and into the pre-AIDS 80's
anyway  So, as you can
surmise, some years have
passed, this was no longer
'seminary days,' and I'm
just sitting there with echoes.
What had caught me up was
how Time had me enclosed,
as if an eggshell around me.
The idea was of 'sensation'
passing, and all of the
realizations of what-will-be.
I'm sitting at the bar, near a
guy who says to the next person
over, as he is leaving, 'Say hello
to the Belgian for me,' and the
other guy gets up and as they
shake hands and do that kind
of New York cheek-peck thing
(men do there), says, 'I will if
you keep on selling.' Just the
odd and idle patter of two guys.
Not that far outside, the crooked,
crazy river to nowhere ran,
alongside us, near enough to
us. We call it The Hudson.
The old days called it the
'North River,' to distinguish
it from the Delaware, or
'South River,' which ran to
Philadelphia. That's how
things used to be. Plain and
clear. Nobody does that any
longer; everything's got names
without reference, glory-names
and game-names. I'm surprised
they don't call the Hudson now
the 'Magical Poof-Poof River.'
The little, magical words of
these two fellows, to each other,
carried for me the unmistakable
whiff of a whole other world.
The Lucille Lortel Theater,
indeed. Near by as well, all the
vast and great aromas of the
Puerto Rico Coffee Company,
'Purveyors of coffees and teas.'
Those rivers: both the Hudson
and the Delaware, were kingdoms.
There once was competition, of
a sort, between the two places for
predominance in the fledgling
nation. Funny to think of now,
(I've always loved Philadelphia
anyway, and in the seminary it
was but a 'hop-ship-and-jump'
across the river from Camden),
but the 'North River' and Erie
Canal, in tandem, won out  -
all that new commerce and
traffic, the huge port bustled
and became our grand city of
York. 'I got a mule, and her
name is Sal. Fifteen miles
on the Erie Canal...'
Back then (it was pretty
much winding down or over
by the time I got there), the
ports and docks of old New
York were a'bustle. Rows
of ships and piers. The heights
of rigging, in the old days,
all those schooners and
masts. What a sight. Shadows
everywhere, like buildings
are now  -  casting rakish
angles and battering the
light. All of that lazy freight
and cargo got dropped right
here : needing sorting, cartage,
drayage, packing, holding,
loading, buying, speculation.
All of which led to the majesty
of the Port of New York: a
thousand jobs on a dime  -
managers, paperwork,
clerks, haulers, lifters,
stevedores. Anyone's father
could have been anyone there.
There were endless trucks,
carts, and people. By 1960,
yes, most of it was lost. Only
a few horses were still around,
even though there had been a
time when most of the work
had been done by them too.
The huge, heavy, muscular
workhorses pulled carts and
clomped around, adding even
more to the aroma and the
atmosphere of that crazy place.
It's always a shame to lose
so much, but lose it we did.
The opportunities, for gain
and for crime too, were endless.
And eventually took over.
Rampant corruption. In the
beginning of this chapter I
said that 'everything was clean.'
Meaning corruption. It wasn't,
but by today's standards it was
different. Now, the largest
outlets for crime and payoff
and the corrupt are in any
of the layers of 'Government'.
The Donald Manes stuff again  -
rake-offs, padded contracts,
deals, hidden corporations.
At the local, municipal levels,
there's not a clean person
around. The reason for that
is that now the Government
makes the set-up for the graft.
Like sidewalks: Over the
last twenty years, one of
the largest municipal-based
operations has been the open
faucet of concrete and labor
contracts for breaking down
the curbs at the ends of the
walkways and installing
instead those 'handicapped'
ramps to the street. For
wheelchairs and carriages
and all that. Mandated by
Government, mind you. So
every mayor and council
geek there ever was now
has their hand out arranging
these contracts  -  a free-hand
to be built in for the awarding
of them, for the running of
the cash. Miserable slobs.
No one knows. (Then they
discover that icy ramps get
slippery, and they do it all
over again, installing those
grip-pad things which then
had to be installed over the
ramps, for 'round two.')...
Yeah, everything's clean.
Anyway, back to this scene:
When I hit NYC, even though
what was left of those old
 piers did become a sort of
second-home too, for a while,
the loss of the piers, the rows
of low, wooden buildings, the
counting houses, brick or not,
on both the west and the east
side (Manhattan had two very
distinct sides of riverfront,
each different from the other
and each very concentrated
on different sorts of freight),
the sailor hotels, loading
platforms, truck bays where
goods were handled and 
sorted, and stretched and 
set-up for the next 
distribution and the
endless and glassed 
rows of worker-sheds, 
counting offices, maintenance 
shacks, bars and taverns, 
hostelries, horse barns, 
smithy shops, cart spaces,
piles of hay and feed and 
rope and lumber, screws, 
straps, leather, steel, the 
six-high-six windows,
crooked with light and 
dark, quiet night and in 
the middle of those nights
the sometimes-heard small
conversations of people, 
men with the low, twining 
pitch of a guitar or a horn 
behind them, the soft, blue 
ooze of a music, of the lost
men somehow perfectly hiding
between things, and the beads
of sweat breaking out on a
hundred foreheads as food
went by them and the hunger
for food took over  -  food
close enough to see but not
eat. Alas, they could not
have what was not theirs.
Their hunger was like a
dead-end, a whistle of time
salvaged from what once
was forgotten and forlorn:
the dead penny-whistle of an
old tug boat resounding the
harbor, crowded as it was;
crates, boxes, and slabs.
The memory-yard of tarred
beams and huge slabs of
10x10 lumber along bulkheads
while the crazed river flew
past, singing at night. How
different were both the
sounds and that light 
in the night.

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