TAKE MY HANGING BASKET
-the Jazz Loft, 1967, pt.2, 1967 -
I always just felt I could never change my
name and that such an idea made no sense.
To me, anyway. I am what I was when I was
born, pretty much, for the good or the bad,
and empowering myself or whatever by
selecting a different name, a 'character
elsewhere' to be just seemed like a stupid
fantasy. The grocer guy you grew up with
is still going to call you Jake, even as you
claim to be Cedric the Warrior. Or, well,
you know. I didn't care what anyone called
me, so it didn't matter. People are born to
what they are and their changing conditions
don't really need a 'name' - as in science,
it's just nomenclature. I spent half my time
just being afraid of making a mistake. Being
out of tune, hanging around people I
had no inkling of : However, I figured,
there was no better way to learn than by
immersion, so to peak. What's Baptism
anyway, if not immersion into something
new? You get dunked, and you come up
saved, or different or whatever it is.
Yeah, then, so Simone the singer and Baraka
and his family, they were all living together
in Newark. I met him once, two or three years
before he died (he signed a book for me) and
he gave a talk in which he mentioned her
weirdnesses, how she'd be up all night sometimes,
naked in their living room, playing the piano;
how she'd brood endlessly in deep, unreachable
silences, and how she just had to be left alone.
He was all firebrand-angry still, over injustice
and white people and the stolen history of black
music, blues and jazz and all that. I guess that
sort of stuff never goes away, gets engrained.
This 'meeting' was in like 2007 or '8, way past
the 1967 stuff I'm writing about. It made me
know what 'one-trick pony' really meant. All
those years later, same cement. It's funny, too,
how 'radical' changes. What once was crazy
cutting-edge ends up seeming lame and tired.
Baraka, Leroi Jones, back then in '67, was as
hot as a torch; now he just seemed to be
going through his motions. Nothing 'radical'
any more. He'd made it through, money, place,
books, fame. He had a little posse of black
Newark guys with him, and a son too. In fact,
his son now is Mayor of Newark. Goes to
show. Ram Baraka, I think the name is.
Everything does eventually settle down.
In fact, at this Baraka book thing, it was
the university kids who were the nut-cases -
talking all radical stuff, asking leading
questions, preaching some black-balance
turn-the-place-upside-down theory of
righting wrongs. All he wanted to do,
this little old guy named Amiri Baraka,
was live on, in placement as a memory.
One thing I remember about these lofts
was the lighting. It was always bare bulbs,
maybe 100 watt, I guess. Wires strung and
looped. Never any real fixtures, certainly no
lamps or lampshades. It's a weird recollection.
Ad hoc lighting, I guess - except for the
industrial stuff. Where that was it was always
a big clunk of some switch or lever that turned
on the place - lights and machinery whirring.
Funny noises. I probably could have made a
fortune by being an electrician. Everything
was made up - because a lot of it was illegal.
You weren't supposed to 'live' in these lofts,
but many were vacant and artists and musicians
didn't really care. Real musicians, I mean -
not, again, the rock n' roll idiots who just needed
their amps and noise and M&M's to be right.
At the same time, there was always a sort of
regal beauty to the idea of wires strung and
bare bulbs. The old kind of bulbs, not those
stupid squiggly things they have now. Those
things are completely ugly and ridiculous.
No sense of balance or aesthetic. Yet it's very
typical of the way people live today. There's a
grace and a beauty to the rounded glass-arc of
an older lightbulb. You just don't get that
anymore and it probably never crossed
anyone's mind what's missing. The arc, the
globe, the curve, that' s a natural and a
human form. From it comes a light. Some
of the bulbs, even better, were clear and into
them you could see the filament and the
actual light, if that's what it is - the
over-presence of electricity running through
a crazy little jagged wire-piece that heats up
because of the overload, and thrown out,
or off, its illumination. That's all gone now.
Whatever; all we get is some stupid cartoon
version of a kiddie-lamp that would seem
at home on some silly Disney-fiddle-faddle
and make all the dorks happy. They would
probably even come alive as animated
characters, movies would be made about
them, and tens of thousands of willing idiots
would line up to buy repeat tickets for
12 dollars each at some shit-ass movie
house. Boy, how we've turned ourselves
into real idiots.
Once the idea of that stuff is gone, it's
over. Nature's curve and arc - really, really
missing now. The only curve and arc is
when someone twists a story or weaves
a tale, erroneous, about the nature of our
place and reality. No one even notices that.
How underneath everything, plain and simple,
there's a lie. They just argue over 'politics',
as if a lie in politics means shit - it doesn't.
Nor does it bear any relation to existence
itself. What a feeble bunch of jerks. They
should all drop dead.
Back in the time I'm talking of, the streets right
here were industrial - lofts and workshops.
The 'Garment District' it used to be called.
All the worker guys, or most, were Puerto
Rican (that used to be a huge NYC presence)
or black; pushing carts around, big carts, filled
with dresses on hangers, shirts and blouses.
The product of all these lofts was fashion stuff;
bolts of fabric, trucks getting loaded with roll-carts
of clothing for stores and such. This is all such
ancient history that it's all gone now. Cloths and
cuttings and sewings and fabrics all come now
from places like Thailand, China, Vietnam or
even Africa. It all used to be plain and simple.
The clothes people wore. Thousands of jobs
for everyone. Now, if you see any fabric or
clothing stuff - and you do, a little - it's by
fancy-ass, futzy, probably gay, designers and
swanky people waltzing around like their
expensive fabric shit-don't stink world is the
world of everyone. Even though it's not, and
they know it. It's a small coterie of insider
designer and all their effete, jerky styles.
Things a normal person wouldn't wear
even on their way out to their own execution.
Things have changed horrifically. The
Flower District, that's still there too. Back
then it was much the same, except, again
people were white average Americans. Now
it's mostly, or it seems anyway, Israelis
or Middle-Eastern types with their finger
somehow in the wholesale flower business.
Boatlaods of plants everywhere, out front,
streetside, sidewalks, it's crazy. And it's
a dawn business, Almost by 10am, it's
all gone and over the the day - trucks are
loaded, and stores are cleared out. What
remains are trimmings and cuttings everywhere,
the leftovers, and guys hosing everything
down and cleaning up. It's a wet business,
but really pleasant too. These streets, except
for the Flower District - which has always
been low, ramshackle buildings and which is
probably not long for this world anyway -
have over the years changed over a few
times, For a while all the book retailers, the
big companies, moved in with their flagship
stores and corporate offices. That last 25 years,
and it too is now gone. Nondescript importers,
clearing houses, accountancy houses, insurance.
Small start-ups. Over time they've all hit through
here. Now a lot of it is tech stuff - every little
3-person operation wants to be the next Google.