Wednesday, February 8, 2017


323. DAYS OF 
Any number of
things remain funny
to me about 1959.
That's a fairly random
number, just because
it was a fairly random
year in a really dumb
world. We had this 
guy down our way 
with a TV repair 
business. He called
it 'Sentry TV.' I 
used to think that 
was hilarious. 
Sentry. What a
crazy concept  -  
that people needed,
or were expected to 
be needing, a sentry 
to watch over their 
TV viewing. A sentry,
I thought was a guy
who watched your 
borders and lands and
the places you lived.
People's heads were 
already getting all 
screwed up. Who
needed that? Nightmare 
versions of squalor 
and want were being 
twisted into their 
heads nightly, already,
and here they wanted 
to be sure they had 
some local nitwit
able to fix their 
tubes and channel 
selectors when 
they blew. It was 
as if the Twilight 
Zone wasn't just 
a show, it was the 
freaking environment 
I had to step in each 
day. 'Sentry TV' was 
around for years, it 
moved to maybe 
three different  -  
each slightly larger 
 -  near-by locations 
as it grew. The last 
vacant place was 
finally replaced, 
after years of sitting 
there destitute but 
with the old sign 
still in place, like 
a ruin on Mars or 
something. New
construction is there
now. It no longer made 
any sense, solid state 
TV long ago replaced 
tubes, and people 
anyway just threw 
their junk out now and 
bought new. Now, 
in fact, they watch 
their crap on 
screens on phones 
or whatever. This 
Sentry guy would 
have shit a brick.
Across the street 
from him too  -  
another cool old 
lineage thing  - 
was a 'Chippery'  -  
which was a sort 
of fast-food-but-you
you-wanted, and 
eat, fish and chips 
kind of place. I 
actually liked it. 
You could sit in 
there, until about 
1982 anyway, and
just douse your 
fried and battered 
fish and fries in 
their version of 
malt vinegar, and  
it was good.
I never watched 
TV after I left home. 
Sentry be damned. 
In NYCity, I don't 
even know where 
they sold TV's, I 
guess in the regular 
stores or something. 
I never really saw a 
TV store; nor do I 
know  -  but I guess 
there were  -  if 
there were just 
regular people in 
the city that cared 
about that stuff, 
family manners, 
watching television 
while sipping and 
dining. I suppose, 
though I'd never 
know why. New 
York City represented 
everything you did 
NOT need a TV for  
-  adventure, interest, 
knowledge, places, 
history, art, color, 
vibrancy, all that. 
Who the heck would 
sit in their dumb
apartment and watch 
some detective crap 
or a variety show 
on TV? For that 
matter who in the 
world would do 
that now and why? 
But they do. So I 
guess I don't know 
much about that. 
Any interesting 
character I ever 
met never had a 
whit of TV about 
his or her self. The
everyday make-up
of our lives there
most certainly did
not include a television
component, Not that
I knew anyway. And 
that was fine with me. 
Any taxi-driver or 
vagrant truck driver 
could be more 
interesting to me 
than some televised 
psycho-geek drama  
-  most of that stuff, 
I found, was always 
Heeb stuff anyway  -  
guilt and mother 
issues never rectified, 
people all twisted 
up over stuff, murders 
and crime. If you 
dwell on or wish 
for that stuff, that's 
what you're going 
to get. No wonder 
they're such whiners 
and problem-prone 
people. Ridicule. 
Shame, Taking 
advantage of others.
It's all televised 
fake-life stuff brought 
to real-life fruition. 
Watch out what you
wish for, I always say.
 Last chapter I touched 
on the e.e. cummings 
subject, and before 
that I was writing 
about the heavy-duty 
academic types who 
get all ponderous and 
high and mighty about 
things. Cummings 
summed it up once, 
in a great way, 
when someone 
was dumb enough 
to start asking deep 
and looking long, 
into his work for 
meaning and subject 
and messages and 
all that. (It's more 
like, 'just take the 
poem and shut-up.
 It's all whatever 
you want to make it'). 
Sometimes he'd get 
heavy about it, yeah, 
but this one time 
they wanted to know 
about his 'technique'  
-  and his perfectly 
answer (now) was 
"I can express it 
(my technique) in 
fifteen words by 
quoting the Eternal 
Question and Immortal 
Answer of burlesque 
(old-time stage stuff)  - 
that is, 'would you 
hit a woman with a 
child?  -  No, I'd hit 
her with a brick.' 
Like the burlesque 
comedian, I am 
abnormally fond 
of that precision 
which creates 
I never knew exactly 
what that meant, but 
I always felt I got the 
general drift of it, 
and as it turned out 
it represented the
complete opposite 
of televised anything. 
It was an artist's way 
of saying that 
everything is bunk. 
That logic and 
clarity don't always 
go together, and 
that the 'slap' on 
the had can be 
mental or physical, 
but usually not both. 
His crap always gave 
me a jump; a good 
one : "Today's so-called 
writers are completely 
unaware of the thing 
which makes art 
what it is. You can 
call it nobility or 
spirituality, but I 
should call it intensity. 
Sordid is the opposite. 
Shakespeare is never 
sordid. His poetry was 
the most intense. Take 
Prospero, saying: 'To 
do me business in 
the veins of the 
earth / When they 
are baked with frost.' 
Words which in prose 
would be nonsense. 
But these words happen 
to be in poetry and the 
greatest poetry." I 
walked around with 
all this running in my 
head, you see  -  
balancing pencil line, 
art, words and all 
of that creativity 
stuff together in 
my head  -  while 
others, I guess, were 
watching their televised 
crud and getting their 
life lessons from that. 
No wonder there 
was carnage and 
death  -  body bags 
of Mekong Delta 
glory floating home 
in steerage and 
freight. And fright 
too. I know I had it 
 -  I didn't want to 
become one of their
 numbers, and they 
sure weren't in my 
personal algebra. 
That was one of 
the problems (still 
is, again) with 
being a soldier  -  
you had to be 
all that.
My heart was 
broken early. It 
happens  -  the 
vacant tumble of 
Life had already 
broken me. Back 
on Inman Avenue 
and before.  People 
swear a person is 
too young to 
remember things 
when they were 
five or four or 
earlier, but I've got 
news for them. 
When I was born, 
I can tell you the 
numbers on the 
clock and the 
color of the nurse's 
smock. I can tell 
you what was 
outside the window 
in the shitty little 
apartment they 
brought me home 
to  -  those McAllister 
tugs, the waterway 
outside my window, 
the ships at the 
Bayonne Bridge, 
the slow, filthy 
lap of ripple and 
wave the big boats 
made slogging 
through that 
narrowest part of 
the Kill Van Kull, 
those parked cars 
along the curb, 
rounded and bulbous 
forms of '48 Chevies 
and '49 Fords. 
The little strip 
of amusement 
park that ran right 
by there, Uncle 
Milty's, and all 
those furtive 
people lurking  -  
dark guys, and 
their women, girls 
and their boys, ladies 
with the black-seam 
of stocking running 
up along the backs 
of their legs, 
those funny hats 
with black or brown 
feathers or fuzzies 
on the top, worn 
rakishly on a 
female head, 
too fraught with 
lipstick and 
far too red.

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