Friday, June 30, 2017


- the Jazz Loft, pt.18, 1967 - 
It always amazed me to realize
how much of this all was 
generational. Things, or rather,
groups come through time like 
tides. A good number of these 
jazz guys, older ones anyway, 
were, in '66 and '67, just a clean 
20 years from having been mustered 
out of their services at the close of
WWII. That's not a lot of time at all,
especially for something like that,
an experience of that depth and
presence. It stays within and is
always processing and growing  -  
I'd figure that was what a lot of these
guys were (still) playing to. Music
was a way out, some fractional
morass, a web of things that grows
inside and wants outlets. What better
way than a crackling new sort of
music  - blow a hole right through
the soul. That was all one fist of a 
generation punching through. As I
said, generational, as even a lot of
those 'beatnik' high-flyers were, the
dark, brooding existential ones, the
early 1950's rejects. As a group, they
all shared, picking up the pieces, mean
or not, of the broken worlds around them.
Same with the Hell's Angels, also right
there  -  they were originally WWII
veteran pilots, fighter-jet guys, on the
lam and trying to put something together
in a crummy post-war world not for them.
There's wasn't music, per se, but instead
a noisy fury of attitude and motorcycle, 
fire and grease. Twenty years behind 
them again, generational, was my own 
brood of shits  -  somehow bizarrely
breaking through and coming in as
1967 hippies. Flower and love, mirth
and lightness. What the hell that was all
about I never knew  -  but I didn't want
any of it touching or rubbing off on me.
I hated that crap. I was dysfunctional
before they'd figured that term out yet.
Now the same creeps are having 50 year
high-school reunions, and bragging about 
it all in their wallpaper smugness.
Hippie Legionnaires.
I knew a guy there, Jerry, who swore that
the things he'd seen in his wartime would 
never cross his lips again and that the only
thing that would cross his lips would be his
horn. No women, not food, if he could help
it  -  then he'd joke and say, of course he 
hoped not, wine women and song being
some part of his well-being. And at least
he could laugh, he wasn't a zombie about
it. That's a bit of what you had to watch 
for with these guys  -  they liked to laugh 
and blow things off with each other. It 
was their camaraderie and flippant ways
that kept them running. On the other hand, 
it became the fear of all that any one of 
the dark, quiet and angry ones would 
snap, at any time, and needed to be
watched. For fear of something happening.
The dark monster was always around.
There wasn't much of that with the jerk 
kids coming in  -  not to the loft, I mean 
to the hippie outdoor central that Tompkins 
Square Park had become; and Washington 
Square, and ten other places too. All they 
cared about, besides the scoring of a 
stash, any sort of lame recreational drug 
by which they all claimed their Nirvana. 
Not a one of them would have had a real
clue as to the things I was running through. 
They may have thought they saw themselves 
in me, but I would have blasted them to 
disprove the integration  -  and I sure didn't
see myself in them. I had slaved my way
out of the same bullshit situations they
were working their way into. I knew for sure
that I wasn't going back in. My heart and my
mind were elsewhere, and intended to stay 
elsewhere, as long as I had anything
to do with it.
In 1956 a guy named Saul Bellow, an
American writer, later of some very great
renown, for a time (they fade, they all fade, 
these reputations), wrote a book which came out
as 'Seize the Day.' A little, skinny book, maybe
120 pages, most. I scored a cop of it for a penny in
one of those silly book-stall places that just sold 
anything that may have been in someone's house
when they died  -  a penny back than as maybe 75 
cents now. For a week or two I carried that
dumb little book everywhere, probably reading it
4 or 5 times. I do that often, like a concentrated
read of, say, a music score, so it gets into my head
and stays there, sings and hums at will. (In fact, I 
still have that copy of the 1961 95 cent, original
Compass Books, by Viking Press, version).
Bellow, and this book, was always just a
major whiz-bang Jewish writer, heavily
themed and indoctrinated with all that myopic
Jew-guilt and persistence about everything,
warts, women, marriage, angst, money,
money problems, betrayal, alienation, ritual,
rites, sex, rabbis, sex, women. Obviously they 
are consumed by this stuff. So is this book. 
The main character, all entwined in conflict 
with his aged father, and some shyster guy 
named Dr. Tamkin. These old Jew guys live
in a long-residence hotel filled with versions
of themselves, over and over. It's all talky, 
and filled with, actually, self-consumptive 
and pretty boring stuff. The son, 'Tommy 
Wilhelm,' (typical fake 'American' name), is
going broke, his ex-wife demanding more and
more, the kids, the father, everyone in forms
of disagreement, Wilhelm takes up with Tamkin, 
giving him his last money to make some sort 
of killing on lard futures and other commodities.
Like I said a few chapters back, typical stuff, these
creeps trying to make money off of others by doing
nothing at all, like the music-contracts guys.
It all falls flat, Tamkin runs off with the dough,
the kid is ruined. Etc. But  -  he says the
following two things, which I loved.  First,
(his crummy sister's an artist): 'Anyway, he
and his sister were generally on the outs and
he didn't often see her paintings. She worked
very hard, but there were fifty thousand people
in New York with paints and brushes, each
practically a law unto himself.  It was the
Tower of Babel in paint.' And, second,
which I really liked, : 'He breathed in the
sugar of pure morning. He heard the long 
phrases of the birds. No enemy wanted
his life.  Wilhelm thought, I will get out of
here. I don't belong in New York any more.
And he sighed like a sleeper.'
                                                                            ..............................the end

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