Monday, July 17, 2017

9745. RUDIMENTS, pt. 15

(Making Cars)
I never crumbled, though I came close a
few times  -  it was a doggedness of application,
more than anything else, kept me going. I
soon realized (alas, fella') riches and fame
weren't going to be coming my way. Two
houseguests I'd never need to set table for.
There's only a small passage between the 
distant past and the today we've brought 
upon ourselves, and, like the seven sins 
of anatomy there are many differences 
in approach and in effect and these are 
things we all partake of. One night I was 
sitting around the basement at the Studio 
School by myself and in one of the little 
cubicle-like areas where I sometimes slept 
and which a long long time ago were used 
as copy and storage rooms for the Whitney 
Museum when it began there in the 1920's,
(8W8th) - a lot of the old paper and cuttings 
were still around as odd pieces of this and 
that. The colors and textures of old cut-sheet 
were paper always interesting and always 
odd and I was there one night just reading 
as I often did, (for this location afforded 
to me total privacy and solitude), and I 
came across the - to me - startling Frank 
O'Hara poem entitled 'The Day Lady Died' 
which was included in a volume called 
Lunch Poems which had been published by 
City Lights and Lawrence Ferlinghetti - 
it was a poem I at first wasn't sure of and 
then after I learned what it was about and
who (Billie Holiday) was, I found totally 
caught and captured that ultra-cool New 
York hipster feeling of old - in this case 
that of the writer in the midst of all his 
usual NYC activities stumbling across 
the tabloid headline and photo of the 
announcement of Billie Holiday's 
death, and then a remembrance by the 
poet, in a completely soft and natural 
manner, of the things it conjured up for 
him and the simple memories which 
came forth, recalled as they were 
amidst all his other activities. It was a 
wonderful poem for those few minutes 
in time it took to read and think of it, and 
I reveled in that sensation too. I quote:
"It is 12:20 in New York, a Friday, three 
days after Bastille Day. Yes it is 1959, 
and I go get a shoeshine because I.......I walk 
up the muggy street beginning to sun and have 
a hamburger and a malted and buy an ugly 
'New World Writing' to see what the poets in 
Ghana are doing these days...." and it goes 
on; but go look it up if you want more 
because it encapsulates what I'm saying 
and the heck with all the rest (I met Frank 
O'Hara once he was five foot seven and 
walked on his toes and stretched out his 
neck and angled his head all to look taller 
and he was quite thin and wore collegiate 
white low-cut sneakers and was quite 
homosexual too a 'charming madman' a
'whoosh of air sometimes warm and pleasant 
though sometimes so gutsy you closed your 
eyes and and brushed back the hair the whoosh 
had disarranged' - to almost quote Larry Rivers), 
and just knowing I was in the middle of all 
that at any hour elated my spirits. I guess that was
what any and all of this NYC stuff was for me. A kid
out-of-element, but damn trying. It's difficult to 
say now or to get across now the sort of strength 
and bravado this sort of thing brought to me, and 
it was almost as if I'd entered royalty in a realm 
of some new way of life. I'd met many people, 
and lodged and visited and hung about with 
many others, and I'd gone from the sorts of 
Tony Main and Andy Bonamo types to 
the austere cerebralness of Mr. Munching 
and some of the others and I'd walked and 
talked with Philip Guston and Morton Feldman,
David Hare, Charles Cajori, and Mercedes Matter.
And others too, just to namedrop,  and the 
sudden rise in feelings and a certain esteem 
all this brought forth is difficult to define 
but easy to peg - suffice it to say I GREW 
and I LEARNED, and the sorry world-ago 
from which I'd come was far behind me 
and (nearly) forgotten. None of that was
hard; but none of it was easy either.
I had been dwindling and I had been fading,
and it took its time before the results of that 
were clear : I had a clear and open track 
to anything I wished, and even if I wished 
for nothing that track was open too - remember 
with William Burroughs in the church at St. 
Marks in the Bouwerie; even then so early 
on I was realizing the same dream or 
something of it which I had percolated 
through my brain into reality, and as often 
as I was in a daze and essentially lost 
without direction, so then too there were
 those wonderful times where I knew 
exactly what I was doing and what 
was all about me - the incredible sound-story 
music factories into which I walked with 
the street-fair format of open serenading 
all along St. Mark's Place and the Warhol 
'Exploding Plastic Inevitable' and all 
that stuff at the 'Dom', later the 'Electric 
Circus', where people seemed stuck 
forever - both indoors and out - and there 
were times right there at the curb out 
front of that building where I'd see what 
amounted to 'families' of fellow-traveling 
hippie types immobile and totally spaced 
for one or two days and nights in a long row,
 and no one ever bothered them, and they 
used (apparently) whatever facilities they 
needed, whenever they chose. inside the 
building, and all the rest of the time they 
simply stayed there. Smoking. Eating.
Talking. Doing nothing. And although it 
seemed a quite directionless thing to be 
doing, they did it always, and to my taste 
it was distasteful having no 'place' or 
reference except that of the fifteen 
others around you, but such was what
they wanted to be about, as some form 
of fragmentation was occurring and the 
resultant society which was taking its place 
was vapid and loose as could be. Hard yet to
fathom, and hard to see. Where was the
connection? Did these people, fellow travelers,
as it were, did they really connect, besides the
physical and the apparent, did they really click
together, and make something new? Was
there a new world happening here? I wondered.
And even I, for myself, 'enjoyed' the sites - for 
these people bore no shame, nor modesty
either, and decamping to an outward city 
street in nakedness and certain lewdness 
seemed to mean nothing to them. I often 
didn't really know what I was seeing, or perhaps 
I myself was so deeply embedded in some 
myopic positioning of my own, from within 
a vast and newer inner universe, that I was 
projecting these things outward. I figured I'd 
never know, and often, at that time, my 'place' 
was east 11th Street, and just as simply any
of these people entered with me what seemed 
a fine and secure hovel, and they liked it 
as much as any but came and went until 
others took their place. I often awoke surrounded 
by strangers (thanks, Andy Bonamo), simply 
asleep or prone upon the floor and unknown 
and gone again that quickly. Food was never an 
issue, nor was much else, and it seemed they 
were always high or drugged or distant, 
(as distant as I was at least), and in the same 
way with them was the freest most strange 
climate of sexuality I'd ever imagined; difficult
here to explain again now, but what I mean 
I guess is a constant stream of coupling, 
fornicating, and changing relationships and 
partnerships with not a word ever said about 
anything. Today I look back and realize these 
were age groups of 16-25 year olds, at most,
and I am stutteringly struck by what I must 
have been witness to and only NOW do I 
know what a 'celebrity' must see and must
live as a lifestyle in the mirror. In the same 
way, these people brought their own notoriety,
by just always being 'on.' I for one made good 
note of it : forgive me if you don't know what 
I'm saying, for I really can't make it clear here.
I am dull and speechless, looking back.
attended to, and it all seemed like a colorful,
lusty, varied, and weird, traveling carnival 
sweeping somehow over heath and meadow 
until it landed smack dab in the urban middle 
of some dying old-world city square of people 
leaving and people coming, each one without 
ever acknowledging the other.

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