Sunday, November 20, 2016


A long weary glance back
would tell me nothing. It's
all in the interpretation, and
that can be quite changeable.
The streets down there
represented something that
had yet no definition, in 1967.
It was all re-forming and
just coming together. A
weird feeling, somehow,
of 'finance in the ascendancy'
seemed to be taking over. I
sensed it, and at the very
same time I realized most
else of what was going
on around me was a result
of that too. The unexposed
secret of American profit
is War. Armaments, vehicles,
supply pipelines, food, medicine,
clothing, chemicals, and a
hundred other things, let alone
death and poison and funerary
practices, all stand to profit
handsomely from a good,
solid war. Everybody knows
that, yet it's kept unspoken  -
most certainly by the gerbils
in Washington DC. Yet, if
everyone 'knows' this, but
no one speaks up, then it's
unknown. At this time, the
high-wire arc of body-suppliers
for the Vietnam conflict was
at an acme : bodies and boys,
please, if you will. The profit
motive went wild  -  everything
from candy bars to Ritz Crackers
to spray deodorants. The cutting
edge of technology, in fact,
had been turned over to the
military. Thank the military,
in fact, for your modern-day
car dashboard, for one
instance, and many more
things Every item advances,
except the troglodyte thinking
of War behind it all. It's a shame.
I always felt the World Trade Center
to be a monument to that sort of
folly. Pure, right-angled, boring-as-
hell rigid structuralism, and an
architecture representing Death.
They were unadorned, stark, and,
really, pretty boring. The identity
they gave the area was one of
brute-force efficiency. In a quite
ridiculous manner, all the silly,
small-time merchants who stayed
there, in their small shops and tiny
outlets for assorted, discounted
sundries, treats, wines, shoes,
ties and 'two-pants' suits, had
placed themselves up against a
new Goliath, hungry and raging
to consume them. It was no
surprise to me that they were
attacked. I WAS surprised, of
course, that they went down as
they did, but there was no
surprise at all that they'd
be attacked.
There was a first attack, in
1993, that failed, but opened
eyes. I remember that one,
when they first put up the
pop-up security barricades to
stop cars or trucks from freely
entering the underground
parking that was once there.
Some guy named Sheik Mujib
Rahman, a blind, Muslim,
cleric, as I recall (imprisoned
ever since, I think), had
masterminded the entry
of a large van loaded with
explosives, which entered the
underground garage and
eventually went off. A huge
bomb, fired by timer, or
remotely. The damage it
did was pretty intense, but
never threatening to the
standing of the very structure
itself. He was tried and
sentenced, long-term, and
swore that  -  although that
attempt had failed  -  the
'next one' wouldn't. He
swore they'd get us; people
laughed him off. Oh well;
'one if by ground, two if
by air,' as it were. It took
about 8 years.
I used to frequent old
Chinatown a lot too  -  sort
of just up the street a bit, 
from the police and the
municipal area  -  the old
Collect Pond site, Five Points,
Mulberry Bend  -  all that 
ancient, really tough land
area had, over time, somehow
become Chinatown as well.
Strange, crazy place. Exotic
as all get-out and certainly 
never-before seen. I went,
almost blindly, just from
hearing about it. A few
Studio School kids would,
every now and then, get an
apartment down there, for
about the price of beans;
nothing to it and dirt-cheap.
One day I was sitting in 
a Chinese restaurant,
idling with some sort 
of fish ball soup and 
whatever occasional 
dim sum the lady 
would bring around;
along with some tea. 
It was about 20 degrees
degrees out and cold, 
with a biting wind that 
had pervaded everything
and the only life on the 
streets was to be found 
out along Chinatown 
and its crazy rim where 
nothing ever stopped  -  
the fish-sellers and 
vegetable people and 
the little tables with 
all their goods for sale 
and toys and hats and 
gloves and the rest, 
and that incessant 
chatter of the Chinese 
tongue was everywhere 
 -  even with air blowing 
out of frigid mouths 
as I imagined each 
breath taking the form 
of some changing Chinese 
characters in the air 
around them, and I 
imagined the great 
cacophony of sound 
to be allied with the 
same, great, melange
 of sight and everything 
else together : Red 
Dragon New Year's 
snakes and rats and 
pigs and all the rest;
and I wondered if 
anyone even noticed.
Sitting there in the 
cozy restaurant  -  
which seemed from 
another day indeed   -  
there were a number 
of people around me,
eating, and the two 
workers nearby had 
spent the entire time 
so far cleaning a huge 
mound of Chinese pea
 pods or something on 
the table, and I watched 
them work swiftly with 
their hands, trimming 
and tearing the harsh 
parts of the pod-leafs 
off. Table had a grand 
mound of green things 
and I thought 'what a 
job for an entire shift!',
meaning 'how boring'
and they'd said not a 
word to each other, just 
both facing each other,
at the round table 
engrossed each 
singularly in thought,
and across from me,
 at the round table I 
was at, was a woman 
with her two boys 
perhaps ages 10 and
 7 each, and though 
they looked alike 
they were different 
in size, and someone 
alongside from where 
I was said "excuse me 
ma'am I couldn't help 
but notice are those 
two boys your twins?"
 and she laughed aloud 
and said "no no they 
are three years apart." 
She rattled off their 
ages (I was close, but
wrong), and everyone 
smiled   -  and the one 
boy said, "Mommy I 

don't want any more 

rice it tastes like water" 
and she said "finish - 
you must just have a 
little more." That went 
on as the dim sum 
lady came around 
again, and people took 
more things. The Dim
Sum cart was a silver
metal thing on wheels, 
pushed along by a woman
whose sole job, it seemed,
was to mark what was
taken, and then replenish.
When a person was done,
they got their  dim sum 
tally, to pay. Usually it 
was in addition to 
whatever other food 
you'd gotten  -   it was 
all, back then, quite 
cheap. Fifty cents 
maybe, each. They 
were an assortment
of little, filled, dumpling
type things. I'd just refilled 
my teacup and took two 
sort of dumplings or 
something on a small 
plate with four on it,
 and it tasted as good 
as anything else. More 
time passed as I watched 
the sculpted dragons on 
the wall  -   large and 
fearsome, with red 
lights for eyes  -  and 
wondered at their 
decoration and what 
presence they were 
meant to evoke; and 
it went on from there  
-  how the twinned 
boys seemed as 
coupled as did the 
twinned dragons, and 
the twin dumplings, 
and why I'd gotten 
everything in two's 
just then  -  and the 
two guys at the pea 
pod table made me 
sure to expect a bill 
of $12.22 if nothing 
else but that didn't 
happen. It was all a
fancy, and my own 
whims at play. I started 
thinking about 'Fava 
Beans,' which I'd 
somehow just read 
about recently. They
were some French 
concoction, a tradition 
of the 'galatte'  -  a round,
 flat pastry with a favor 
in its dough  -  a practice 
which I'd read continues 
each year through the 
month of January, still,
and the galatte, when 
distributed for centuries 
in France, had begun it
was as a custom whereby 
whoever got the slice 
with the favor in it 
became king or queen 
for the day, complete 
with a paper crown, 
and the favor was 
said to bring an 
abundance of good 
fortune; and even to
this day the favor is 
still called a 'fava' (or 
originally the French 
feve), for beans were 
what French bakers 
had originally buried 
in the cake,s but they  
eventually became 
porcelain little toys 
and trinkets and are 
now - of course - instead 
PLASTIC items of the 
same variety  -  little 
trinkets decorated 
with flowers texts 
or other themes 
meant to delight 
the recipient, and I 
thought how parallel 
all that was to Chinese 
New Year, to good fortune,
to customs and trinkets 
and luck charms and 
even fortune cookies.
But I figured at some 
point, perhaps, all 
things do mesh 
together so that each 
culture and every 
tradition soon enough 
is found to trade off of
the same human needs 
by condition everywhere. 
And now the Fava Bean, 
though it still exists, 
is kind of a mysterious 
bean only occasionally 
eaten and without much 
other intention or presence 
and so long forgotten as 
could be. But somewhere,
somehow, tradition lives 
on even in a place like 
this  -  now that 
I mention it.
And then I decided  -  
there's no 'favor' in 
this world, where the 
sewers have been 
known to run with 
blood, and the very 
soil I walked upon 
was somehow drenched 
in four hundred years 
of death. Yet, we forget,
and maybe that's good.
The old parts of New
York City did this to me, 
made me think like that.
And at the bank, as I
passed,  the fireman was 
talking to another about 
retirement, and I figured 
every mind has thoughts 
but only great minds have 
great thoughts. The lady 
he was talking to seemed 
about as dumb as he was 
about everything and as 
soon as they were done 
and the lights had changed
I moved on again figuring 
there's always room for 
more and there's always 
levels of elitism too  -  
that fireman was looking 
to retire by stashing away 
enough cash for another 
home somewhere to 
retire to, while I, by 
contrast, was just 
looking to survive 
and pocketing whatever 
money I could here and 
there come by. And that 
was another elitism 
entirely  -   elevated 
elitism versus lower 
elitism, or something 
like that. The rank 
difference between 
the two, it always seemed,  
was as yet unknown to me, 
and if we each had a 
daughter they'd probably 
look exactly the same at 
first, my daughter and his,
 and only later start 
looking vastly different 
(well that was a hunch 
anyway), and some 
people blame circumstance
 for everything, and others 
blame environment, 
while others say fate.
I never got any of that 
straight so I just let it go;
because, no matter what 
else, sometimes it all 
comes so simply and 
leaves everything else 
behind because of 
its grand simplicity,
while other times 
everything's as difficult 
as hell and you just 
can't do anything about
it anyway. Then I thought
to myself that sucker, 
that fireman, could die 
in a city blaze tomorrow 
and everything would be
for naught anyway, and it 
was all like some fervid
zen koan ringing in my 
modern-day ears   -  like 
'why did the cookie cross 
the road?', and the answer 
is 'it had no ears.' Just as 
simple and paradoxical 
as that. And another one 
'what did the zen Buddhist
 say to the hot dog vendor?' 
and the answer is 'make me 
one with everything'. Both 
of them made me smile, 
(that enlightened smile 
seldom seen), and I 
realized how fateful - 
no matter what - everything 
really i,s and how one 
moment anyone could 
be laughing at themselves 
while the very next hour 
they could be drooling 
on a metal cot shot in 
the head over a parking 
spot. And that's the hand 
that the city plays up  -  
one minute to the next 
you're double-crossed 
and just as dead  :  and 
bang your head and 
you ARE the missing 
link and so what of it.
And since it was Chinatown, 
and I needed to pee, I 
thought of my friend, 
Ed, who, in such situations, 
would always say he had 
to 'drain the dragon.'

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