Friday, August 11, 2017

9827. RUDIMENTS, pt. 39

Making Cars
God has His regiments and I have mine
That's what I used to tell myself anyway.
Mark Twain used to live on 10th street;
I'd go over there and ask him, or his spirit
anyway, why I wasn't born Huck Finn?
Like any of fifteen others, these old, early,
American-spirit writers had ghosts who
still lingered. The James Brothers (always
sounded like hoodlums but were really
Henry and William, writers). They lived
a somewhat childhood and youth of
privilege around the square. To either
of them Huck Finn probably came across
as a lousy, annoying upstart. I can't go
on listing everyone, but right around
 the ten or fifteen blocks near the areas I
was living and frequenting there had  once
lifted an entire raft of people all dead and
some living maybe yet too, who meant
more to me than life. My father asked me
once, who I really respected or thought
highly of. I answered, 'Anyone any good
is long ago dead.' The look on his face, and
the silence ensuing, was horrible  -  I think he
thought I'd answer that he was. Uh oh. Take
another demerit, bad boy. Wrong answer.
I was so glad to be away from all that  - even
if it meant starving and picking from the gutter
with Thom Paine. Scratching at the grave of
Preserved Fish. (A real name, buried at the
very old 1st street cemetery, of the Hamilton
Fish family, founding New York people. I guess
they named a kid 'Preserved'  -  unless his grave
is some sort of inside joke and he's a trout in
formaldehyde from way back). I figure it was
probably pronounced 'PreserVED.'  I'd do
anything, I realized, to find my own name
and place. The only thing that New York city
offered was everything. Others scoffed :
dung-heap, filthy hole, trap, disease-ridden
hell hole. They entirely missed the point, 
and still do. Yes it reeks, and it is, in so 
many ways, a shithole, but it's a way back 
into time. There aren't too many other 
places outside of other old cities like 
Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, etc.,
that offer that, but no other places offer it 
with as much depth and presence as New 
York. Old New York, Historic New York, or 
ahistoric New York, whatever. I didn't care.
I was pretty much filled from growing up with 
stuff that wasn't really very good. Basically my 
entire life had been the equivalent, in American 
youth terms, of, say, Fred and Barney (The
Flinstones) jerking  off. That, and the Cuban
 Missle Crisis or something of equal stature 
in the weirdness department, was all that 
had ever been offered. Batman Pow Smack! 
I'd spent a solid fourteen years hiding, and 
I was about  done with that. Say goodbye 
to Hollywood, say goodbye my ba-aby.
The first girl that took her clothes off for me
asked me what it was I wanted from her, and 
all I could answer was, 'A way out.' Lucky I
wasn't paying for it.
Life is sometimes a big circular monster. At 
times, it does end up that way  -  you know 
how they say you go out the way you came 
in  -  dumb, bald, childish, drooling and 
pooping in your own clothes. It's not true, 
but I get their gist. It's circularity, closing 
the circle. Tragic, it is, in so many ways.
They also say going out in a blaze of 
glory, young or whatever, is always better 
 -  but that's a bad idea too. See, point of 
fact on this all is, no one knows anything, 
really, and they're all just talking to make
themselves feel good. Making stuff up, as 
they go along, in order to get by. People
get paid to make things stay, or seem to
stay, happy and shiny. Well,  OK. I was 
set up and ready for any of that; already
knowing better, and on to their game.
The times I sent and wherever I spent 
them, I always made sure they were 
special to me, kept in a perfect area. 
Where I wanted to be. There was this 
old guy I knew, he lived alone like on 
3rd street, down in the  A or B areas, in 
one of those horrible places mostly kept 
for old, decrepit people waiting for their 
last bus out. Death. He mostly just seemed
to subsist on tea, and tuna fish. And Arthur
Godfrey  -  what a mix; some ukelele-strumming,
on the edge of nasty, talk show kind of guy who 
voiced his own commercials for junk like
soap and instant coffee and bread. Really 
horrible and you that underneath  that TV/Radio
voiced lurked a real-live bastard kid of guy. 
Your ears could just tell. Anyway, that was
this old-guy's life. I got to know him when 
I was cleaning an apartment house, once 
or twice a week for some rich-kid Studio 
School jerk who got to live for free in the 
upstairs apartment of this 10 or 12 unit 
walk-up place, but no longer wanted to 
act the super or the janitor, which is how 
he lived for free. Or for all I knew his 
family owned the whole building from 
some office somewhere. Anyway, he 
hired me to sweep and clean up the 
hallway and stuff for him. I'd go a few 
evenings a week. He gave me the run of 
his apartment if he wasn't there, which 
was mostly always, and to be frank I'd 
often use his toilet and shower, rifle through
his magazines and books, sit around and 
have some food too. Nothing great, but he 
kept normal stuff like peanut butter, bread, 
pickles,  pretzels. It was just nice to hang 
out and see the lower end of New York 
from that rooftop height. The old guy 
lived nearby. I'd go to Gristede's or Food 
Lion or whatever it was there for him  -  
sometimes. He'd need a few things, and 
he'd give me the money. He never, ever 
left the rooms. He did nothing much at all. 
It was sad. I never wanted to get like that; 
even though I never knew his story anyway. 
He could have had a great personal history, 
I guess; though I doubt it. But I never even 
got his story. He'd just sit here, or some 
lady would be pushing him around in a 
chair with wheels  -  though it wasn't a 
wheelchair, really, more just a conveyance 
for sitting, with wheels. She'd have him 
out front, now and then, which is how I first
got to be seeing him. I had told myself, no
matter what else, I never wanted to lose
focus like that, even if I was 110. Not that
I'd have any control over it, I guessed, but 
I was making plans for avoidance anyway.
I never knew what happened to him as I
eventually did just stop going. The hallways
always stank of soups and cooking and lots
of Spanish spices and stuff. It mostly got me
half-nauseous. The only people around were
a bevy of young Spanish kids, like 8 years old,
tops. They were always fooling around on 
the stairwells or out front on the stoop, getting
in my way to and just being a pain. I saw very 
little of any of the mothers around, and I 
always hoped someone had like at least a 
hot-looking 18-year old daughter or something; 
someone I could maybe take upstairs and 
show the 'books' to or any of that misleading 
stuff guys do. You know how it is; but nothing 
ever came by, except a mailman or a repairman. 
Or some creep with complaints about something. 
Garbage. The hallways. The dirty floor. 
I eventually just gave it all up. Told
the guy I was too busy.
It was a way for me to keep thinking while 
being at work in my head. You've read how
I've been spouting this William Carlos Williams
stuff the last few times, from 'Paterson.' Well
as I read that over again, I see a lot of nicely
hidden, aphorism-type things in it; something
like Blake's 'Proverbs Of Hell' but different.
Here are a few; they're not apparent in the
long verse work. You kind of have to pull 
them out: 'Without invention nothing is 
well spaced, unless the mind change, unless 
the stars are new measure.' 'Minds beaten
thin by waste -  among the working classes
some sort of breakdown has occurred.' 'A
world subject to my incursions.' 'Why should 
I move from this place where I was born? -
knowing how futile would be the search for 
you in the multiplicity of your debacle.'

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