Monday, January 30, 2017


One thing I have
always noticed  -
especially since
I was always
mixing up into
other places where
I had not been,
was that I myself
became the context
for whatever
historicity there
was. I suppose it's
like that for
everyone. But in
my own case I
had grown up
in a place completely
devoid of history.
A place that
did not ever exist:
the simplest row
of crud you can
imagine, built in
dirty lowland
swamps and woods.
No one had ever
explained anything
to me, taken me
aside to show
and say what
this land and
place was, to
put it in some
form of context.
To put their hand
and mine in the
red clay together,
as it were. I was
on my own.
History without
context is so
useless You end
up, say, with
something really
ersatz, like Colonial
Williamsburg or
any one of those
old 'George Washington
was here, did this,'
places. The east coast
here is full of that
stuff; mostly bogus,
fake or amplified
upon. The germ
of the tiniest 'story'
becomes the mythos
of same false, important
legend. OR, on the
other hand, without
context, you get any
of those history-houses
or town compendiums
that simply end up
showing 'this was
here, that was this,
and here's what maybe
remains.' It's almost
worth scoffing at,
because no one wants
to lift a finger to seek
out anything more
than that  -  mostly
they want a
society place
where they can
have their teas
and costume days,
recalling a dead
old History that
they themselves have
killed anyway; but
still claim; like the
Rahway NJ site
of the supposed
Merchants and
Drovers tavern,
or Boxwood Hall,
in Elizabeth. Or,
for that matter,
Nassau Hall at
Princeton University.
All of these places have
and keep a tendentious
story-line about
themselves, but
mostly to show
how much better
they are, in their
old time and
than are you or
the present era.
Bad news all
around. It always
somehow gets
turned into class,
status, elite and
value. You never
see a poor, regular
guy in an old flannel
shirt and a bit smelly
and tawdry looking,
pulling people into
an old site to show
the aroma, toil,
work and drudgery
of that 'Reality,' really.
Dirt, grime, no
brushed teeth, old
clothing, littered
and uncut paths
clopped with horse
poop, and roofs that
leaked and sheds
that fell. Open,
smoky fires, and
toilet pits. Just 'aint'
gonna' happen'  -
because it doesn't
fit the present day's
assumptive narrative,
which false narrative
now 'owns' all this.
They'd get thrown
out on their ear.
It's as if it would
be much better
for these people
if they could get
away with having:
'George and Martha
Washington, hip,
happy, couple drove
up here one night,
in their new Lincoln
Town Car (go figure?),
to stay a few days
dining and seeing
the sights visible
from this fine hilltop
which looks out
over the valley,
while they feasted
on pheasant under
glass and a
Cinnamon apple
pie which Madame
Farnoth, lady of
the house, had
prepared for
them.' See,
that's history!
Once I arrived
to New York City,
I suddenly realized
it was all there and
I was the context.
Weird as that
sounds, it was
true because it
was all within me.
The city gobbles
things up, builds
up and tears down,
with a twenty-year
timeline, so swiftly
that things once
mentioned get that
soon forgot. There
were layers upon
layers of things,
and none of it
was really
or even recreated.
There certainly
were no doily-fed
matrons guiding
people through palaces.
Merchant's House,
on 4th Street, was
a good example of
that. I went there
a few times, and
it's all there, still,
just sitting as if the
guy (name forgotten
right now -[got it:
Treadwell]) and his
family had just left
ten minutes before,
but what makes it
even better is that
there's no one yapping
at you about lessons
to take away or
what this or that
was. You're just
there, and no one
really gives a care
about you, as long
as you've paid
your eight bucks.
(That's all sooo New
York). There used
to be an equally
good old federal-style
home, right there,
next to it, abutting
it, but no one ever
caught up to that
one and it slowly
decayed, leaned,
and fell apart, and
is not long gone  -
and the lot is on
to something else.
Somehow Merchant's
House still is there.
Probably gets 10
people paying a week,
and maybe a cruddy
school group or a few.
I guess what I'm
saying is that,
although all the
lies about this
place too are
there, at least
no one speaks
them. It was just
a typical house
a few steps in
from the Bowery,
which was a
wild den then
of whores,
same-sex fornication,
sleepovers, suicides,
murder, dance and
drink. Never much
mentioned, how
the one could
coexist like that
with the other.
Right across the
street from
Merchants House
now is Jonathan
Swift's Hibernian
Lounge, more just
known as Swifts.
I met my friend
Danny from Britain
there once, as he
was visiting NYC;
on a rollicking grand
afternoon. There
were four of us,
drunk and stupid
in two hours on
drafts of Guinness
and buckets of
vodka. For Danny,
seeing a maybe
two-hundred year
old house  -  and that
was stretching it  -
was like, 'Whoah,
mate, what's the
big deal then?'
That's like a drop
in the bucket
where he's from;
like two years back.
That's pretty apt
when you think
about it. I mean, w
hat is history anyway.
Down on my corner,
until about 5 years
ago, there was a
hardware store
that was there
for a million
years. (OK, maybe
50). It's gone now
-  it's the place that
freaked me out (I
wrote about this
in past chapters,
way back) with
the sign in the
window, when
I was about 10,
which read 'Notice  -
Due to circumstances
outside of our control,
there will be no
tomorrow.' As a kid
that totally freaked
me out, and I panicked.
Anyway, they tore it
down, and to other
houses with it,
and now it's a
sleazeball 'professional'
storefront ( a freaking
Vape Shop and Distributor),
and a few condo units
upstairs, or apartments
or whatever those
things go as today.
So, you wonder, is that
too not a 'History'? Does
it not mark something
passed and tangible?
Five generations or so
of people with their
paneling, linoleum,
barbecue grills, and
pole lamps and lock
and key sets? Seeds
in the Spring and that
very rich smell, each
April and May of all
those soils and
mulches they sold.
It was all amazing.
It smelled so rich.
But there's no
narrative, obviously,
no one claims it or
speaks for it, because
it has no story. If you
'own' the narrative, it's
all yours; you control
the fable and the fact,
and the fiction too.
Ask the next Native
American Indian that
you see
As I entered this new 
realm for myself, I 
was, in a way, a 
humble servant to it, 
and  -  in another way, 
I was all-powerful; 
the content-mantainer, 
the processor, the
 'weaver' of the 
narrative I wished. I 
had 'MADE' the context!
And that made all the 
difference in the world.
It was strenuous and 
muscular, and made 
me strong. I'd see a 
hundred people at a 
time, all the time, 
dreadful, lost souls, 
seemingly blackened 
and deadened by 
their own obliviousness, 
walking the dark 
smoky streets in 
their overcoats and 
wraps. To paraphrase 
T. S. Eliot, I didn't 
know Death had 
undone so many.' 
To use Hart Crane, 
'Bedlamites.' Yet, 
here they were, loose 
and listless working 
stiffs, striving, and 
with no narrative at 
all. Absolutely nothing
 to claim except 
maybe their TV, 
some sports games 
and their rides 

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