Thursday, November 24, 2016


When you're a kid, adults
have a way of gleefully
putting you down. They
don't mean it, or they
don't know any better,
but it happens. 'Oh,
go on, you think too
much.' Stuff like that.
Apparently their idea is
that you should just
grab what comes your
way, examine nothing,
stay very normal, and go
with the flow. I quickly
understood all that, but
it never worked a darn
for me. In my day, (way
before Internet searches,
for bloody sure), that's
what books were for.
Another kingdom
within the King Dome,
so to speak. (It was
BS, meaning Before
Seattle). Seattle was
something that popped
up to me, in 1962. There
was, along about that time,
a spate of expo's and
smaller-scale World's Fair
type things that a lot of the
secondary, coming out of
nowhere, cities were trying
to latch onto  -  to establish
their name, get something
memorable engrained in
the minds of people, turn
some business, and be
remembered by. Montreal
Toronto did it too, with
Expo '67, in 1967. But
was in 1962 it was Seattle's
big dash for the ribbon.
which counted.They had
a Space Needle, and a
bunch of other schlubby
stuff which was supposed
to present them to the
world as a 60's hip,
cosmopolitan place.
Back in 1962, it all
caught my eye. The
inter-connected ideas
of supposed space-age
marvels and wonders,
all that progress and
wonderment to be, was
by it personified. I watched,
saw as much as I could.
This place called Seattle.
The entire west coast of
America was suddenly
waking up. That Space
Needle thing, it was
something I just could
never quite grasp  -  a
combination of the
Eiffel Tower and a
pencil-point stump and
a very cold, wandering
version of American
Dream. I knew it had
to be all lies and all false,
Any of that science, space
stuff and those 'modern'
and even 'futuristic' designs,
(that's what they called it all),
it always perplexed me; I
simply never understood the
direction or the point of
all that influence. A particular
level of 'cool' that was not
appealing to me at all.
But, this all expanded
my horizons, in  any case.
And a kid thus learns
about podunk and far-flung
places like Seattle, whatever
the merit or not. I was old,
inside myself. Everything
about me was somehow a
reference to the past. I
couldn't stand the present,
let along some scabby,
Space Needle future. It
was all presented, too,
in the very alienating
context of really stupid
things such as, in the
future, taking a food pill,
or a squeeze-paste blob
of something, instead of
eating. Real George Jetson
up-the-ass stuff. Gross and
stupid  - as if the land and
agriculture and human
heritage no longer mattered,
could be erased and forgotten,
and some glorious future
would be taking its place.
I wanted to die.
San Francisco, I could 
understand. Other places, 
not so much so. At least
San Francisco was literate,
had some cutting-edge stuff,
was spoken of and written
about in Beatnik literature,
old 1940's material. It had
Ferlinghetti, City Lights,
North Beach, the Tenderloin, 
Fisherman's Wharf. It connected
to Point Reyes, the Russian 
River, outrageous art and pomp,
writing, poetry, crazy people.
It spoke for itself. It had light.
Concurrently  -  using Seattle
as an example  -  these other
places had nothing. They 
were minuscule foghats of 
a make-believe, made-up
culture. Nothing madcap or
adventurous. They all
ended up  as some silly
singalong type place  -  
happiness distilled into
good wishes. Man, 
I hated that.
New York City was 
everything these places 
were not. Rude, crude, 
tattooed, and lewd, as
it were. I learned it as I
earned it.  It had the 
backbone AND the 
edifice. These new 
places most often 
tried getting by with 
the edifice alone. Much 
like those planned 
communities, Radburn, 
and Celebration, fake 
towns wired into some 
larger grid, letting people
in, but never out. 
Strait-jacketing them, 
and squeezing. San
Francisco, and Seattle, 
both boasted of  -  and 
had a more physical 
nearness to  -  the
Asian influence : Chinese 
and the rest. Yes, their 
actual Chinatowns 
boasted of cuisine and 
people and sights and 
sounds. But the NY 
Chinatown, distant and
off as it was, existed in 
a hardier, grittier format, 
more by necessity than 
by any aspects of prettiness 
and charm. Like a 
two-by-four to the head
as opposed to a cupcake.
There was certainly 
nothing charming about 
the weather : four months 
of bone-chilling cold and 
dirty, piled-up snow and
ice that just ended up as
filters, as well, for all 
the road grime that it 
caught. Two months
of horrid, polluted, 
high-humidity hell-box 
days. Noise, cars, jams,
pile-ups, traffic, outrageous
people, disgusting habits, 
the acts of charlatans 
everywhere. There was 
never a let up. Maybe
two good weeks or
three, in April, May, 
or June, scattered
about. The rest, you 
really had to make
pleasant, or they 
weren't. That's what 
made New York what
it was  -  the existential
angst of pulling one's 
own teeth.
I never tired of it. I got
by. I was able to pattern
myself by where I was at
any given time  - all things
were a detective work, for 
me, of uncovering my timidity.
Deciding to 'Do.' Striking out,
not in the 'baseball' sense of
losing, or missing a shot,
but in the other sense of 
trying, of going at it. As
I look back  now, sometimes 
anyway, I realize it was all
a huge mistake. I really should
have just thrown in the towel
and moved on. Headed west,
where I was also 'wanted'  -
opportunities were there. I
just kept saying no. When I
did finally get there, in '76, I
traded one Chinatown for 
another, and realized they
weren't interchangeable :
the San Francisco world,
all of it, was too light, too
bright, to pleasant and 
predictable. The art, I 
found, had no dark spots, 
no shaded corners. All 
that 'Beats' and 'Semina' 
culture, and Jess, (a 
foundational artist of the 
early 'Frisco scene, fey
and weak, but with lots of
good stuff too mixed in),
and the rest, it didn't cut 
it as much as I thought.
Art History had already
been written, and this had
all been overplayed. There
was too much joyousness,
too much light. All those
good things. I wanted the
opposite. My dark and 
haunted subconscious was
what had always been 
calling me, and to that
I owed allegiance. It
was far, far better
represented by the
shaded and looming
power-presence of old
New York, in all its aspects,
than it was by the graceful
and clear glee of the west.

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