Friday, February 17, 2017


332. MING-HO
It took too long 
a time for me to 
really get straight 
with things. All 
my youth I'd been 
mixed up, and only 
later did it become 
clear : there was 
no presence in 
my life for another, 
not really any space. 
That's a crazy, myopic 
temptation, the sort 
of things I'd figure 
that mass murderers 
face off, and lose 
to. Sometime about 
1966 or something 
there was this guy 
in Texas named 
Charles Whitman. 
I remember him. In 
a high clock tower 
at some university 
down there, just 
shooting off people, 
one at a time, down 
below. I don't know 
what America was 
going through right
 then, can't aptly 
recall, but his was
the one of the first 
things that got big 
coverage. It was 
all over the place 
and no one knew 
what to make of 
it. What he 
represented. The 
'Youth of Today, 
on the march?' 
Of course not, 
but that's the sort 
of stuff they 
immediately tried 
to stir up. He killed 
a whole bunch and 
wounded more. 
Big numbers. And 
then there was this 
Richard Speck guy, 
in Chicago or by 
there, he did all 
sorts of weird things 
like that too. Killing 
girls, hiding their
bodies. These were 
regular ordinary 
people, young men 
of upstanding nature  
-  the sorts who'd be 
dying my the boat-load 
in Vietnam in a few 
years, but before that 
these were the 
tightly-wound weirdos 
you'd see in any 
high-school yearbook
and expect to turn 
out as successful
businessmen. And 
then, after high 
school, they tried 
to clutter their way 
through college and 
went bonkers. Zingo. 
Cracked under the 
American strain. 
My lesson, right 
off, from them, 
was that their 
actions represented 
the end-result of 
that faulty belief 
that had been inside 
me, that there was 
no presence in 
my life for another. 
So wrong. 'Look 
what it brings,'
 I'd think.
So two years later, 
I'm sitting in the 
middle of New York 
City myself, working 
like a dog to prevent 
my own crack-up, 
my own mass 
slaughter. It was 
possible, anything 
was apt to happen.
I was walking on 
new ground, uncharted 
territory, and every 
freaked-up temptation 
in the new world was 
constantly being thrown 
up at me. Sex and 
drugs and rock 
and roll, as the 
paltry saying went. 
I punched right back  
-  sex was the easiest 
part to get away from  
-  a fucking annoyance, 
excuse the pun, and 
who needed it. It 
loses luster as a major 
statement after a 
few times, when 
it bores itself down 
to just plain animal 
sustenance. Jeepers, 
put that thing away, 
girls, and boys; 
doesn't anyone get 
tired of hearing 
about it all. Drugs 
was next  -  what 
a bore, the people 
who did them made 
me sick, wastes of 
time, tripping over 
their own saliva 
and jauntily fan-dancing 
to fan-tasies. It was 
self-indulgence and it
paled against my own 
creative stuff. That was
where the action was.
The last one  - rock and 
roll  -  that was so bad 
it was impossible to 
like. So not a problem. 
Mostly Jewboys anyway, 
and I grew tired of 
them real quick  -  
the hippie population 
was rife with them, 
and all the stuff they 
brought with them, 
including the sex 
and drugs. Yes, I'm 
pinning it all on 
them. How's that 
for certainty. It was 
all  mommy dream,
the entire hippie
 mess, a cuddle-back to 
to the innocence of 
the breast. I walked 
away, long away. 
Please don't 
bother me now.
My Chinese friend 
Ming-Ho, that's 
what he was called 
anyway, he'd gotten 
away from all that 
stuff some time 
before, by begging. 
It shakes all that 
junk, as he said, 
'right outta ya.' 
He'd given 
everything up, 
willingly, just 
threw it all away, to
have nothing and
go begging on the
street. Voluntary,
abject poverty : Seemed 
to work, though I 
never knew the 
real inside story. 
Maybe he had 
like a Ming Dynasty 
fortune, family trust, 
or something. One 
time, along the 
Bowery, or on 
Chatham Square, 
I can't clearly 
remember, he took 
me to some 2nd 
floor Buddhist 
temple, a real one. 
It didn't look like 
much, not all that 
church kind of stuff 
we do here. It was just
a once-commercial-loft, 
big windows that 
opened out and 
made a really large 
glass front above 
the street which 
was teeming. There 
were little Buddha 
statues around, mostly 
high up on these little 
shelves, with incense 
and oranges everywhere. 
Regular oranges, 
unpeeled, just sitting 
in bowls, next to 
the shelves lower 
beneath the Buddhas. 
I questioned that 
and he said people 
left offerings, oranges, 
fruit, or money too; 
dollars and stuff. 
The dollars were 
eventually gathered 
up, to support the 
place, and the fruit 
too, eventually. Incense 
was always burning, 
and a few robed guys, 
with tonsured heads, 
or shaved bald, or 
funny wraps, they 
were just sitting 
around, meditating 
or zoned out. Two 
guys came out, 
apparently they 
knew Ming-Ho, 
and they began 
talking, in Chinese, 
I guess, or in Buddha, 
if maybe that was a 
language too. No one
even blinked at me,
no acknowledgment 
at all. I just sat there. 
Some lady came in, 
with a bag of stuff, 
and she actually did 
lay an orange or 
two around. And 
then she went through 
a curtain into the back. 
Also never acknowledging 
me. No big deal, I just 
never knew what 
was up, who was 
talking about what, 
none of that. 
Eventually, Ming 
got some sort of 
prayer done or 
something like 
that, on us, we 
got some little 
piece of prayer 
paper, and left. 
It was pretty weird; 
I figured maybe I 
should be feeling 
like I just went to 
church or something 
but it more felt just 
like I'd been to 
someone's lounge 
or club or pool-hall 
even. It had that sort 
of feel. Then I began 
feeling that maybe 
it was ominous 
instead, mysterious, 
like some secret 
crime-cult and 
Ming-Ho knew 
something, or 
was involved in 
some secret. He 
laughed me off, 
and said not to 
worry, they were 
good. He said they'd
 mentioned sensing 
me, and that was 
the conversation 
mostly, their 
initial resistance 
to having a stranger 
in to see their inner 
sanctum. Or whatever 
it was. Then he 
said one of the 
guys was related 
to him, and it was 
OK, but they'd not 
taken us really 
into the rear room, 
where it's kept dark 
and more sacred, 
for chants and 
meditations. He 
said maybe another 
time, maybe when 
they felt better about 
the intrusion. Never 
was another time, 
and I never really
cared. I never saw 
much of Ming-Ho 
anyway, after that. 
But by the corner 
at the Mayflower 
Cafe, over by Mott
and Canal Streets,
where I'd occasionally 
eat, with the Batman 
sticker on the bathroom 
door, there'd always 
be another guy, doing 
exactly as Ming used 
to do, and in the same 
spot too  -  same long 
Chinese beard thing, 
that same 'look' whatever 
it was, begging, in the 
same manner. I never 
got to the bottom of 
it, at all  -  if it was 
'honorable' to be 
begging like that, 
if he was begging 
to his own kind, 
the fellow Chinese 
who were everywhere, 
or if, instead, his 
intentions were that 
the western, 'American' 
types passing through 
(plenty of those too), 
were to be affected 
and respond to this 
begging. I don't know 
if the Chinese were 
expected to help 
their own, or if it 
was just a show 
for the American 
tourists. Or if it was
a Buddhist poverty
thing, renouncing the
world and all, 
or what.
No matter, the times
in Chinatown had their own
gloss, and this Buddhist
temple thing was just one
example of it. Everyone
there, (in Chinatown), 
always seemed to be
intimidated, or hiding
some great secret or
something known only to
those denizens of the
strange streets. Baxter
Street, Pell, Mott, Doyers
Lane. Enough to make
you crazy - especially if
you did't like Chinese food.
Authentic Chinese food, I
mean; the real stuff, not 
like highway Chinese
restaurants peddle. No
menus, just point.

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