TAKE MY HANGING BASKET
-the Jazz Loft, pt. 17, 1967 -
I walked around a lot, with big
thoughts. I'd walk up, from 8th,
to wherever I was headed - each
different direction, any old adventure.
The districts of the lofts and studios,
west teens and 20's, they held the
most interest to me - as I said
previously, a step into a ways back
of time. When things were different.
I never got much into the present day,
and those that did, who could calmly
swim in that new ocean, they just sort
of most often bugged me.
The main thing, the big word,
was 'vile'. I thought of that and
from that point on the rest of
life became fairly easy. It's a
quiet concept, 'vile.' One that
covers the entire, vile, world.
And that's all it is. I think that's
what the jazz loft guys had realized
too - one big, vile world hardly
worth connecting to. And they
took it all out in jazz-music, of
their own sort. The Studio School
people, as nice as they were and
as important and serene as they
kept things, were of a different
nature. As part of the 'other'
world, in their way, they kept
the other veneer - a niceness,
a business-like happiness, the
sort of office-decor decorum
you find in places with clerks
and registrar-rooms and people
keeping track of things. It's just
different, a something different.
I guess I had to admit, the world
was breaking their way, certainly
not mine, nor the jazz guys'
way either. You have to separate
the word 'vile' from the negatives
that attach themselves to it.
That's all just human thought,
running on. The difference,
in fact, is pretty easy to discern
- too easy, maybe too simple :
'Art,' nice. Badass 1960's black-guy
jazz, bad. All these years later -
now - the little facts of the matter
are the same, it's just the big
quantities which are different.
Hordes of toady touristy types,
swarming the Trevi Fountain,
say, without a clue. I mean the
steely packs of idiots, straight
out of central casting for some
crowd scene in a new version of
'The Blob.' This time in American
colored-clothing, little phone-cameras,
fat bellies and asses, luggage and
stupid clothing and shirts. Adornments.
Wives and husbands, kids and clowns.
Yes, everywhere, as if the disinterred
bodies of every cheesy street-character
mime and cat-walker from the 1960's
has arisen from the dead and taken
to the world. 'We go here, and we
go there, and next we go to that.'
Vile figments of nasty consumers,
worldwide gainers ruining the world
they seek to see. It's a paradox of
the unknown, by the unknown.
Maybe that's a good definition of
'vile.' And then they get back, return
home, and know nothing again.
Oftentimes, really, I just wanted
to starve to death. Maybe. Working
through the streets I often had a
death wish larger than the Grand
Canyon - all around me were
the chances. Drugs. Jumping from
any tall building. Grabbing a gun
and blowing my brains out. A million
things to just jump in front of, trains,
buses, subway cars. Sometimes it was
all I could do to stay living. Not that
it really mattered. On one hand, 'The
Blob.' On the other, 'The Living Dead.'
But I stuck to it, to something, just in
order to survive. Why wander all those
dumb years in the wilderness just to throw
it all away now? That's what I'd tell myself.
There had to be an answer to the riddle
facing me. I kept returning to the source,
as if I was some archaeologist at a dig
whereat I kept moving too far afield
with my little hammer and shovel and,
once realizing it, moves back in closer
to the initial point of the dig's start.
Otherwise you just end up searching
for completely other things than what
you initially had set out for. Sidetracked?
As it turned out, I kept it well enough in one
piece to outlast it all myself. It's a relatively
easy task. There were dark moments, and a
few dangerous times, but mostly it all turned
out for the good. I compartmentalized pretty
good too - I had one or two friends, like my
sometimes sidekick Jim Tomberg (again,
material I've covered real well in previous
episodes of other accounts). Jim was a
ham-fisted brawler, a strong but heavy
drinker, and a metal-sculptor. My travels
and times with him consisted of lots of
very cool things - train rides out to
Brooklyn scrap yards to find, buy and
somehow come back with, his odd little,
and not so little sometimes, pieces of
steel and things for his welding and
sculpturing projects. Always a crazy trip,
and I never knew what was coming -
booze, brawn, outlandish stunts along
the way and, inevitably, his (nearly
always) middle-aged female pick-up.
I figured them for that anyway. If I was
18, he was 28 or 30, and he'd always
somehow wind up dragging home a
40-year old. He had exquisite taste in
railroad and subway women. Sometimes
I'd mutter, virile, not vile. He never did
have too much to do with Art, in that
sense of proper and fussy. He didn't know
it, but he was more akin to those jazz guys
than he'd ever imagine.