Tuesday, November 29, 2016


(part 1)
There's a spot on the old
railroad-west-side that's
now a postal-truck building
or something. A long time
ago it was a railway depot:
'The Hudson Rail Depot'.
That was when the interior
tracks used to run right there,
above-ground, in the 1860's.
The whole world was different
then, and new things at that
time were things that propelled
people, moved people along.
Of course, they didn't have a
clue what was going to be
coming right at them, soon
enough. No different than
us, today now, with the
Internet and computer
world we've unleashed.
No matter. The building
there now  -  really crummy,
maybe from the 1940's, just
some truck loading docks, a
few ramps, and signs for
special parking, loading,
unloading, no idling of
engines, all that. There's
usually any number of
blacks or Hispanic guys
hulking around, with a
combined IQ of about 112.
Union guys, probably
getting a hundred bucks
an hour; loading, unloading,
pushing carts, moving
things, then, of course,
every 14th minute getting
a break, when they all come
out to smoke and look
around. It used to be all
used up and junk land,
around here, but now
every inch is worth about
a million bucks, and all this
old, fallow land is under
big-time construction,
constantly. Every time I
take a photo in this area,
any one of those shrouded
and unfinished buildings
seen comes right out of here.
There's a bunch, and New
York sure is changing.
Anyway, these bozos come
out like some extras from a
Pinter play  -  standing
around, minding only
their own vacancy,
squinting and wondering,
and they don't ever even
notice the Abraham Lincoln
plaque on the wall, which
to me is like revered ground.
Always has been. In the 1960's
(yes, a perfect, one hundred
year gap there; always right),
I'd get off the train from the
old Penn Station and deliberately
walk down this way to begin
my walk back downtown to the
Studio School by passing this.
It was the spiritual beginning
of each trip downtown. In
my mind, anyway, I made
it so. That plaque states
something to the effect that
President Lincoln was here
on his way to his inauguration
and then, as dead President, 
Lincoln, but a few years
later, his funeral train passed
through this station a well,
on the way to Illinois'.....
not exact, but something
like that. The point was
that he was here, alive, 
using a train, to make 
a date, and then he was 
here again only a short 
while later, as his funeral 
train trolled his dead body 
along to wherever. That was
powerful stuff, dead, deep, 
dark times. Not even the 
Kennedy assassination and 
all that TV pomp and stuff, 
could match this  -  these 
were dark times, back then,
and railroad times, people 
weren't in sassy and stupidly 
glib communication with 
each other and everyone else, 
things had meaning, messages 
took time, people passed 
slowly. In contrast, I hated 
all that monstrous 1967 stuff. 
Paltry and pathetic; we couldn't 
even spell mercy, let alone 
understand it. Brains were
filled with ads for hand lotion
and dish detergent. This older 
world, to me,  was dense
and alive, in a different 
chemical element, some 
essence in some other matter 
and space. I wanted to be 
there. I hated this 1967 
world, and as I walked 
through it I sensed I could 
walk through Time itself. 
I could commune with 
layers of ages as I wandered. 
I've never really kept a 
'home' port for my thoughts 
 -  just rather a 'go-where-random 
it all may lead'. That was my 
joy of living  -  the picking 
and assorting of what I'd 
stumble over. The man selling
 cigars and cigarettes in that 
crappy little stand, he might 
have said he was stuck, he 
was trapped, there each day,
making dish-pan pennies 
for all his time. Those union 
guys, getting their big bucks 
for cigarettes and candy, they 
may have never had a clue 
about their own presences, 
instead seeing life as a 
drudge and a draining  -  
of time and effort and 
money. I never shared 
that aura they walked 
through. I had a halo, 
and I knew that. I just
hoped it wouldn't interfere 
or get in the way. This 
was back when some 
rails still ran  -  over 
there, extreme west side.
There were still a few 
slow supply freights 
slugging around, pulling
carts of steel or bags of 
food and grain. Bakers 
and builders, all the same. 
They all needed their 
supplies. I had mine
in dreams of time.
I'd walk the streets, 
even though that area 
of the westside, as I
walked downtown,  
turned dumpy quickly. 
There were long rows 
of project-type houses, 
once I got down to Chelsea. 
As nice as Chelsea itself 
was, these 1930's or 
post-Depression projects 
were real crud, to me 
anyway. I guess if they
 meant housing for others, 
a sort of deliverance, that 
meant a lot. But for me, 
they just represented 
depression, small 'd'. I'd 
been born in the same
sort of place. A cheap 
commercial brick, facade,
no design ethos; courtyards 
and post-box rows and 
playgrounds with benches. 
Plazas and a government 
office or two  -  Dept of 
Housing, all that 'Relief' 
stuff, my Grandmother 
to call it. She was always 
talking about people, 
friends and neighbors, 
who had to go on 'Relief'. 
Like it was the end of the 
world or some horrible 
fate. Maybe it was, 80 
years ago. I don't know. 
Things were different :
they'd still let you struggle 
in shacks and shanties. 
Now, like here, they just 
tear it all down and stack 
those people up, 20, 25 stories 
in the sky, in dumb-looking, 
ringed, red-brick towers. 
Often with schools at the 
bottom  -  so, you figure, 
a poor kid, in fact, is made 
to never have to leave 
his or her 'poor' area. To 
learn about others, to 
mingle, to see. That was 
way too bad, I thought. 
Why wasn't it just called 
segregation too? I had to 
walk past them  -  still do
sometimes; they're all still 
there, done over at least three
times that I can remember 
 -  new tiles and bricks, new 
walking areas, even new 
names  -  after Socialist 
heroes and leftist heroines. 
David Dubinsky Center, 
stuff like that. Everything's
 named after someone. 
You can probably look 
Dubinsky up, right now 
I do forget what he did 
to get his own name on 
a tower. Like he was 
President Trump or 
something! Socialist 
hero is something to 
be. John Lennon said
 'Working Class Hero' 
but, whatever. To me, 
a socialist hero is a 
gigantic sandwich 
that everyone 
can eat from.

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