TAKE MY HANGING BASKET
- the Jazz Loft, pt. 7, 1967
One of the things I never dug was
insincerity. It used to drive me nuts to
see it, in operation, or recognize it as
it was underway. I hated that cloying
professionalism-in-attitude that always
ended up as a 'I know better than you'
stance. I was barely 18, and yet I could
already sense it and see it coming - as in
someone noting that the basic 'professional'
standards were not being met, in whatever
the undertaking may have been in the
instance. It makes the assumption, of
course, that only the 'speaker' knows all
these right and correct means and that,
by being critical of what you are doing, or
some 'other' is doing, he or she is only then
underscoring the sense of his or her own
'rightness.' The jazz guys, they never had
any of that - there was never any 'beauty'
stuff going around, or search for beauty or
even profound depth. They never cared. If
anything was'beauty' to them, it was maybe
some 'babe's butt,' as they'd put it, or the
pointed shape of some this or that 'sweetie.'
A hand maybe going where it shouldn't be
going; that, was beauty - like a sax solo
or some well-managed blast.
I heard a lot of cities I'd never heard of while
there - places like Omaha, and St. Louis,
and some big midwestern beef or steak city,
the name of which right me escapes me.
Some one of these guys was 'from' there,
but I forget that too. It sure can't be said
I remember everything. I had a friend, a
few years later, too, who started saying he
was from there - whatever that town was -
and I knew it was all creepy falsehood. It
was just a place famous for its seasoned
meats or cattle markets or something and
I think he'd just read one too many magazine
profiles about what fine meats the rich eat.
He was like that, always stretching and
pretending abut things not his in any way.
How could anyone care about that? I never
knew. What kept me busy was real stuff.
I was learning every minute, and oftentimes
couldn't even believe I was getting exposed
to these things. A few years before this, it was
all I could do to slog through 'Giovanni's
Room' or 'The Fire Next Time,' and now
boom! James Baldwin is seen. When I got
to The Studio School, on 8th Street, right
across the street, the Marlton Hotel, or
Marlton House, or whatever it was, there
had just recently been the likes of all sorts
living there, an entire range of irreverent
beings - Lillian Gish, John Barrymore,
Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, Lenny
Bruce, Jimi Hendrix (as an unknown),
Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Delmore
Schwartz - to just name a few I cared
about. Their floating presence was still
in the air - heady stuff for some Avenel
NJ nitwit to blow into; the very stench of
the Gods. And then I somehow blundered
into these jazz guys. I immediately took
the chance given. I forgot to mention, a
year later, from her room at the Marlton,
Valerie Solanis would set out one morning
to shoot Andy Warhol. She got him good.
He didn't die right then, but after a brutal
recovery he did die some years later from
the lingering effects of these wounds and
their treatment. (She written something
called 'The Scum Manifesto,' and desperately
wanted him to film it, to which he kept
saying no or just putting her off. She
was crazy-maiden enough to crack). As
was crazy-maiden enough to crack). As
soon as I discovered these lofts - and I
don't recall exactly how that was except that,
yes, I was doing an 'errand' for someone,
an east-village local delivery up to w17th
street (ferrying who knows what it was) -
I was hooked. I loved the feel, the darkness,
the smell and the constant industrial odor
that permeated - oils and tars and paints
and greases. Odd metallic noises and
the clangings of automatic elevators and
lifts, hydraulic loading dock platforms,
etc. I knew immediately that I'd 'found'
my spot. It was almost the grey-dark dream
world of place I'd been dreaming of my
entire life. Sometimes you get someplace
and it just rings true, right in your guts
and soul. This was it for me. I never
had to tell any of these older black jazz
dudes about any of that - and no one
ever asked anyway - because I think
they too all had come out of the same
sort of place-situating for themselves.
It was something and someplace
unique and special, and shared by
each of us in some oddball spiritual
way. Maybe it was called New York
City, but that wasn't really it at all.
There are people, it seems, who dwell
in daylight, in the light - those the jovial,
the California types, bringing a glee and a
happiness and well-being always with them.
This was none of that, nor was any of that
ever any of me. I hated that stuff. These
loft-days and the the jazz loft guys, they
always were in a sort of half-light, grey
darkness, discernible only if you tried,
and then even still unseen mostly and
hard to recognize. Like William Styron,
or whoever it was, had written -
'Darkness Visible.' That's
where I dwelt.