Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Far, far afield from
anything of the real,
I conspired with myself.
Had to. Couldn't not.
Sometimes I'd sit
around in the Mayflower
Cafe  -  which was 
nothing more, really,
 than a foul Chinese 
Restaurant that had,
at one side, a long 
counter and served
coffee and various 
pastries. Remember, 
this was 1967 or so, 
there weren't any 
Starbucks kind of 
things around. If you 
weren't drinking alcohol  
-  for which there were 
10,000 bars  -  you 
were stuck looking 
for rough and tumble 
coffee places. There 
wasn't much. Twin 
Donuts, and Schraft's 
or Andrews Coffee 
Shops weren't for me; 
they were more heavily 
invested in the regular, 
working guy, normal 
people and tourist 
class. They bored me. 
The three or four 
'diners' I knew of, 
they were OK, but 
sitting at the counter 
all night meant talking 
it up with one of the 
counter-girls or guys, 
and after a while, 
once it all gets that 
friendly, I always 
began avoiding it. 
Most all of the 
Automats were 
closing up (they 
often became Burger 
Kings. Go figure 
that out)  -  and 
perhaps the last 
one was right by 
the Chrysler Building 
back then, something 
like 41st and Lexington 
maybe. I went there 
too, but towards the 
end they really started 
ruining the place  
-  in fact, right in
 the center, they 
nearly gave the 
whole thing over 
to a big cookie 
a thing called Famous 
Amos, some black 
guy who made these 
supposedly grand 
cookies. The cool 
China-men at 
Mayflower, they 
were so far off and 
distant that I never 
had to talk. They 
served  -  the Chinese 
food restaurant side 
of course was regular 
Chinese Menu stuff, 
but really cheap and 
really good  -  all 
sorts of pastries 
but they were all 
Chinese pastries, 
which was weird, 
meaning they 
weren't anything 
like American stuff, 
donuts and all. These 
were gummy 
concoctions of 
a really cool texture, 
and usually filled 
with any sort of 
bizarre filling, 
anything ranging 
from either chopped 
and pasted almonds 
to some kind of 
prune-pudding stuff. 
It was strange, but 
good. And the coffee  
-  just regular stuff 
out of a big urn  -  
was intense, thick 
and dark and strong. 
It was a lucky 
break and pretty
 cool. Most of 
the time it was 
Chinese, but not 
always  -  there'd 
be little clumps 
of two or three, 
intense poetry types, 
political debaters, 
crazed NYU socialists. 
You could always 
tell them, non-stop 
going at it into each 
other's faces about 
arcane issues while 
they chomped 
down on piles of 
75 cent lo mein 
and a pile of rice. 
I could always 
tell the real politics 
nuts, those leftist 
types, back then, 
were all about 
Sandanistas and 
Nicaragua. Which 
were just normal 
words and places
 to me, but they'd 
spit out the 
words with some 
oddball guttural 
tone. It made them 
sound as if, or think 
that they were really 
from there and 
authentic fighting 
leftists battling 
whoever it was 
those guys battled. 
Arturo Sandino, I 
think his name was. 
It was a real kind
of drama, a personal
role-playing that kept
them going. You could
see it as they acted it
out. Satisfying and
intense, as if they
were trying out for
the role of Che 
himself, in some 
cheesy flick. Every 
so often, an older few 
would come in, 
big-time guys (this 
was Allen Ginsberg's 
last favorite haunt, 
back when he could s
till make the 15 or 20
 block walk; constantly 
talking, intense, with 
whomever was with 
him. It was always 
fun to see). I guess 
I was just 'funky' 
enough,in the terms 
of the day back then, 
to get along with 
this stuff  -  I really 
had little and wanted 
less. And I lived a
really slum life, the
slummiest you could
think of. It was all, 
for me, just things I'd 
face off. What used
to scare me the most, 
I'd admit, was, below 
11th street, rather 
east of 11th street, 
the avenues, A, B, 
C, and that area. 
It was wildman 
country and I seldom 
stepped in without
real hesitance. Two 
girls I knew, from 
the Studio School,
 they lived there, 
in some corner 
walk-up that 
seemed impossible 
to live in. I had 
given them my 
cat, Blake. I don't 
know what I was 
thinking, or why 
I'd done what I 
did by even bringing 
it into NYC with 
me. But once the
apartment was raided
and everything taken,
all I was left with 
(again) was the cat. 
The whole thing 
was a pet nightmare 
and I was an idiot, 
and I knew it didn't 
work  -  so I let 
them take it. But 
I never really saw 
it again, and even 
just writing this 
now is painful. 
I'm do for a spell 
in Petkeeper Hell, 
I think. Couple of 

bad mistakes in 
that department. Anyway, 

down there, once past 
Avenue A, all Hell 
broke lose : needles, 
pushers,  users, killers, 
and everything in 
between. By the 70's 
the world down there 
had crash-landed, 
everything had just 
fallen dead onto the 
heads of the people 
who were still there. 
I don't know how 
they managed; 
they too were 
walking dead. 
There was no 
money, unless you 
could steal it. There 
was no frolic, unless 
drugs and crazy sex 
and madness were 
your thing. None 
of that was mine, 
and I even hated 
the smell. It was 
from all this rubble, 
in a little bit of time, 
that an interesting 
derivation of rock 
and hippie culture 
broke out  - after a 
year or two of death 
and bad bodies and 
countless OD's left 
on the curb where 
they died, You'd see 
them, looking so 
much like a garbage 
bag out for pickup, 
that you could walk 
right by. Or maybe 
wonder...last night, 
what time this one 
happened? How'd 
he pass? I always 
wanted to lay my 
hands on, raise the 
dead, say a powerful 
prayer, do something. 
Life sucks, but that 
kind of death 
sucks worse. 
Well, anyway, let 
me get back on 
track. About this 
time, amidst all 
else, I really knew 
I wanted to be, 
had to be, a writer, 
had to set all this 
crap down sometime 
and somehow. I 
was determined 
that Id start and 
do it right then. 
It was doable, 
and I knew it. 
Craziest thing is, 
everything else 
always got in the 
way and it took me, 
out of control, nearly 
40 years to get down 
to it. And there is 
was, finally, coming 
out of me like blood 
from a knife wound. 
I found these things, 
to sort of explain 
myself : 'Here's a 
book that has been 
conceived unashamedly 
and directly without 
a thought either to 
critics or to the 
book trade, to the 
prevailing tastes 
or styles of the day. 
Nor fitting into 
any of the pigeon-holes 
of style and content
which prevail now. 
Neither novel, play, 
essay, history, or 
travel book. A book 
that exists because 
the author was so 
moved to write it; 
amused by a certain 
slice of his existence 
in which these things
happened  freely and 
cantankerously and
were committed to 
writing. And he had 
the nerve to let such 
things happen. To 
tell about. In this 
pattern-cut time 
of being, most 
writers are too 
afraid of losing
their private 
reputations as 
well-dressed and 
to make any attempt 
to feel and express 
directly the life 
about them and 
in them. And why 
is it, in addition, 
that when anyone 
commits anything 
novel in the arts 
he should always 
be greeted by the 
same peevish howl 
of pain and surprise? 
The interest people 
show, or claim to, 
in these endeavors 
cannot be very 
deep or very 
genuine when 
they wince so 
under any 
unexpected impact.' 
Yep, that was 
going to be me, 
and I was sure 
of it.
*****THE END*****

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