Monday, January 23, 2017


The whole gypsy thing
was always very weird.
First off, they've gotten
mis-named. The very
sort of mis-naming
that often happened
back in those bleak
old days when no
one really 'knew'
that much. They
have nothing to do
with Egypt. And
Gypsy Moths, in
turn have little to
do with them. The
whole idea was of
a thieving, crummy
people always on
the move with no
settled place of their
own. An ersatz Jewishness,
of sorts, except the
Jewish aspect of all
this got all high and
noble with the God
connection by which
they bolstered their
being. And travels
too. East Euro Khazars
would be more like it.
If I called the Jewish
people a race of thieving,
on the move creeps. I'd
be in big trouble. But
that's another story. For
Gypsies, it's OK.
These Leo guys had
it all wrapped up.
In the old movies, if
you see a Gypsy portrayal,
they're always done as
shorthanded for a nasty,
conniving, dishonest,
duplicitous person who
would steal from you
 the breath you just
exhaled  -  stealth,
secrecy, weird
dances in the woods
around campfires,
with wagons and
earrings and scarves.
They'd pull into
some forest-clearing
town and everyone
was immediately
on edge and aghast.
Somehow, in
movie terms,
the way movie-guys
thought then, and
still do, they can
make the merest
'suggestion' of a
trait without having
to actually show
the trait, for if they
did, then they'd be
accused of something
nasty. But they knew
that the people
watching whatever
film it was would
get the message.
Period. It was all
encoded. It wasn't
too much work at all.
So, I'd wonder, what
do all these Leo guys
think of that? And
their womenfolk,
stuffed in cars
and producing
endless babies,
what did they get
from all that?
Difficult to tell.
As far as I could
tell, this bunch,
these Leo guys,
were always
above-board with
me. What else I
might have been
missing, I never
saw.  It was a
decent relationship,
among fellows. I
wish I could see
them now. In the
rest of Manhattan,
there'd be all these
doleful old-timers
sitting around,
always in clumps,
silent ad all get-out
and yet commiserating
with each other
through silence.
Concentration camp
people, tattooed
forearms  -  like I've
written of previously;
the 11th street crowd,
the old Polish Jew
on the corner with
the eyes that were
always tearing,
and his little
luncheonette and
diner-counter thing.
That's where I first
saw the tattooed forearm
situation  -  and then
Yonah Shimmel's
and then Katz's and
Russ's and the rest.
They were all over
the place. Tompkins
Square Park and
its benches held
a hundred, I'd bet,
at any one time  -
plus all the center
aisle walkway and
bench people up
along upper
Broadway, through
the west 70's and 80's.
A bunch of them,
and they were all,
back then, approaching
their end; one after
the other, they slowly
dropped off. Today
you can't find one.
It's all other nationalities,
younger people, and
an entire 'other' way
of going about things.
I don't know what
these Leo people
would ever have
made of these scenes,
but I know, as well,
that Hitler did his
share of slaughtering
these people too.
It's all gone now,
from every angle.
My friend Paul had
a studio apartment
in the west 60's a
block or two in
from Central Park.
I always thought
it was really cool,
a great spot  -  he
never thought
much of it. He
never, actually,
thought much of
his own situation
no matter where
he was. At least
when I knew him
-  he went through
 about 5 apartment
locations, and about
three female companions
too. Of course, I never
had to live in these
places, so my liking
them was a bit
dishonest, on my
part. Me liking
someone else's
misery, sort of  -
so I never went
on about it, just
kept silent and
listened to his rants.
Any number of
cool things were
there. In the late 
fifties or whenever 
it was, Fidel Castro 
had been in or 
come to New 
York City and 
stayed right around 
there too, then. He 
wasn't the successful 
revolutionary leader 
who later took over 
the country; but 
while here had a 
grand following of 
his own people and 
was sort of the 
revolutionary toast 
of the town. I forget 
where he stayed, 
but I remember it 
was around there 
somewhere and it was
still often mentioned. 
A New York studio 
apartment can bear 
many descriptions, 
starting with 'closet.'  
But this was, a studio 
yes, but I'd say maybe 
at least a room and a 
half anyway. It opened 
right to the street, 
was long and 
narrow, maybe 
10 feet wide, and 
just ran straight, 
almost as one 
long room. The 
front window 
was to the street, 
so you'd always 
have street activity 
going by. I can't 
remember the rest  
-  sinks and 
kitchenette and 
bathroom and 
all that, but I guess 
they were there. I 
can't even remember 
the street number, 
thought I think it 
was maybe 72nd. 
Paul was always 
on the edge of despair, 
I mean big-time. 
I remember one 
time, his best 
friend had run 
off with his 
(Paul's) girlfriend  
-  just stole her in 
a mad jumble  -  
and Paul was 
deadly morose, 
for a long time. 
One night we 
went to the White 
Horse Tavern, 
down on Hudson 
Street, by Jane 
Street, usual 
scene, crowds 
and noise, beer 
and beer and 
beer  -  all Paul 
did that whole 
night, in the back 
room beneath the 
portrait of Dylan 
Thomas, was play, 
on the jukebox, 
repeat mode, 
some ridiculous 
song current at 
that time, by 
Joe Jackson, a 
guy I forget mostly. 
It was called, or the 
main refrain (which 
I heard 10,461 times) 
was 'Is She Really 
Going Out With Him, 
Is She Really Gonna' 
Take Him Home Tonight?' 
Yes. There was another 
one too, Gloria Gaynor,
 'I will survive.' I almost 
forgot. Now that kind 
of girlfriend stealing 
is real gypsy theft. 
More like what 
I'd expect.
Another weird 
thing I always 
thought about 
was how ordinary 
people got to be 
that way. It always 
seemed to me 
that people 
weren't necessarily 
'born' stupid; they 
just somehow let 
themselves get 
that way after 
a while. By 
believing in 
the most ordinary 
and mundane factors. 
The entire gamut  - 
made up religion 
stories, tales of war 
and valor, Fatherland 
and Motherland stuff, 
duty, honor, and 
conviction. For 
what? it was all 
a junk heap of 
the same sold 
metal mishaps 
that these Leo 
guys collected and 
sold. No chemical 
coating. OK, I'll 
sign that. They 
always were getting 
these contracts done 
up, a I said in the 
previous chapter. 
What if there was 
a contract we each 
had to sign, early 
on, to the effect 
that we'd not fall 
for any of that 
stuff that makes 
us later on brain 
dead and stupid. 
The Gypsies 
maybe had an 
inkling of all this  
-  because their 
gravesites are a 
real trip. Some 
of the gravestones 
and slogans and 
manners of portrayal 
on these huge things 
are really something 
to see. Beyond  -  
way beyond  -  the 
usual morose 
sensibility of the 
dead by which 
most people 
mark a passing. 
These people die 
flirtatiously, almost 
as if they knew all 
this stuff was and 
had been really 
a joke. Playful, 
a winning attitude 
of just throwing it 
all away and going 
at it. Yep. I'd 
sign that.
Everyone else gets
 real savage and 
serious about things 
that, at base, are all 
lies. In my time 
there, I could have 
met 10 New Yorkers 
a day who'd be more 
than willing to fill 
me in on all this
serious stuff about 
the history of their 
city  -  how this 
happened, who did 
what, where, and 
the rest.  I already 
knew it was all bullshit; 
and then I met the 
gypsy people and 
I realized that all 
the negatives and 
evil stuff, the crooks 
and slime-balls just
 like these Gypsies 
were made out to be, 
weren't them at all. 
Instead, it had been
the most revered and 
bullshit people of 
New York's early 
days who were the
crooks and renegades. 
They don't call them
 'robber-barons' for 
nothing, even though 
the truth about them 
is never told. These 
guys make Gypsies 
look like altar boys.
Jim Fisk, Brady,
Vanderbilt, Morgan,
and a bunch of 
others too  -  all 
with big-deal
family names and 
fortunes you'd easily 
recognize, (I'll write 
some more specifics 
in the next chapter), 
they cornered markets, 
artificially sunk prices 
so they could buy 
things up and then 
shut it down, 
whatever it was, 
rail, steel, even food 
and merchant goods, 
so they could sell 
again, real high, 
making like 160 times 
their investment, digging 
up streets and roads 
for the implementation 
of rail and cartage routes, 
stealing contracts by 
double-dealing. It goes 
on. They're rich and 
famous, with big corrupt 
fortunes and reputations  
-  even though they 
were crooks and creeps.
Like I said, these
Gypsies were altar 
boys compared 
to that crap.

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