9219. YOUR 'THEN' WAS MY 'NOW', (nyc, 1967-8):
Everywhere I went there was already something to regret but I just kept plodding on past the factory-nurseries where they kept the kids orphans and disowned and forgotten about YEAH that did still happen in 1967 they'd end up in places like the New York Foundling Hospital on 16th and Sixth Ave., maybe 17th, I can't remember, by some soup kitchen around the corner at St. Francis Xavier Church - a really massive looking but sensibly small church from way back - where if you looked the part at all - really easy for me - you could get a good meal handed out for free but first you had to pray and get prayed at and listen to a little bit of something they always said but it wasn't so bad and it wasn't like most people didn't believe anyway - in at least a part or all of that stuff and there were always whiskery and cigarette-choked guys lined up and standing around - not too many boozers though - I don't think they tolerated that - or females either and the only ones there I ever did see were one that would be dressed like men anyway and you couldn't never tell the difference and no matter because seeing a really sad and homeless female woulda' just made me sad and hurtful anyway so I put up with all that but I hated the hymns and anyway I can't sing in that real 'song' way worth a darn so why should my voice anyway insult the heavenly ears of whatever was above ? and I figured we all got something in life we're not good at and that was mine - I used to more enjoy actually - instead of just waiting in line - to go upstairs into the church itself - there were about 20 steps of fancy marble to go up to get in and then the line of hungry guys would be stretched out below you in the fence area and that was always creepy or awkward or something all these wizened hungry eyes just waiting and staring at you - meaning me of course - going up the stairs instead but I liked it inside there they had about 1000 of those flame vigil candles always going and in all that dark light it was really nice and warming and spiritual inside they can keep their prayers but then after time and now - and it's really depressing - places like this no longer have the open flame thing and instead they have these crappy fake candles that you start after plunking down your dollar for prayer and intention and getting a starter stick this thing you click and it starts some kind of fake flame or something in a little plastic box and that hurts the most the fakeness of it all now - why the heck would they get rid of the open little candle things for in the same way is that what they then do with your intentions and hopes and prayers and even their God now is probably some artificial wind-up command-giver because nothing's any longer real anywhere and all they want to do is go through some false motions so you get the idea but that's all - no flames on the vigil candle just the IDEA of flame and I didn't now what that could mean for any future because these guys were always hungry and if you try telling them while they're holding a plain empty plate and after doing all that singing and praying 'no food just the IDEA of food' you'll surely have a hungry and homeless riot on your damn hands. Funny thing about that church though because 'fire' was in their genetics and about 100 years then previous their first church on that spot burned when some fool yelled 'FIRE!' during a mass and the resultant stampede killed a bunch of worshipers and took the first structure down (though not from any fire) and they built this later and newer one pretty bizarre looking for NYC.
Nothing ever made sense to me and that was just fine because I wasn't really living between the lines of that notebook paper anyway - watching what transpired in the orderly rows and situations of the hourly determinants I'd see everyday : statues to Admiral Farragut and Benjamin Franklin did nothing to deter me from my errant ways because the only thing those guys did to my mind was highlight the perverse duplicity of all the lies and bullshit which had been peddled at me all the previous years : I knew there was no truth to the effect that rightness and work can make one FREE (there was none of that anyway) or any of that boilerplate stuff they'd throw out every Independence Day and Memorial Day all those sinecures for suckers I'd watch - the Veterans on parade all wizened and wobbly on their bad legs and broken frames and the ancient and pathetic charms of military suits and uniforms of death as they showed them off with medals and ribbons all made me puke and drool at the stupidity of these oldtimers who'd never gotten over anything except their own good sense and the armed elites of cops and soldiers and marine guards and political types filled with their own gut-level ranks of bullshit and squalor and all this everyday military bigwig stuff - General Hershey and Westmoreland and McNamara and Johnson and all the rest - just made me squint my eyes in hatred and wish them dead and twisted and burned over twice : bastards all : and yet the streets were rattled with both sides every day and placards were waved and people stormed and marched and walked all the while shouting their sides one way or the other - no alternative allowed thank you - and the nightly news made its mad-clamp dash for stardom by showing the names of the dead (I watched all this once twice too many times over public-space areas and large-screened enclosures set up as shanties and small towns for the indigent where harried hippies hung and hectored whomever passed) - it was a wild and weird world then so different from anything else and there were folk songs and speakers and preachers and the lost and the lame and those who'd 'been there' and seen the action as it went and they told tales of death and destruction and themselves maimed and twisted they groveled and cried before captive crowds and traffic was stopped and buses and taxis waited while cops kept steady lines or tried and the 'amalgamated fisticuffs of brotherhood workers' sometimes struggled with the crowd (union workers waging for wages the warfare they were told) - it was all dark and maddening and useless and bad but it seemed to go on for a very long time.