RUDIMENTS, pt. 32
I figured there have always been crazy
people, the zanies, the ones out there.
Even in 1910; even in 1810. How to
figure it all out? I'd walk the old streets
of New York, recalling as if it were
all real, those old, dusty streets of 280
years before : cattle roaming, loose pigs,
natural hills and landscape, water, marsh.
Everything that's now been long ago
leveled and destroyed, so much so that
no one anymore has the least clue as to
the sort of place and real location they
inhabit. Manhattan Island now is but
a terrible blemish. I remember, back
in 1965, reading the account of the
Con Ed people digging up a section of
Washington Square Park for whatever
below-ground electric-wiring reasons
and their finding 25 skeletons. Perfect,
and all in a row.Everyone was stunned.
Little did most people know of Washington
Square Park's history - parade grounds,
military practice yard, encampments, drill
field, potters field, burial ground, execution
ground. All through the 1600's and 1700's
this stuff kept changing and leaving remnants.
Why would anyone be surprised? The whole
island once held fens and marshes, rivulets
and hills, caves and warrens. By 1800 the
entire natural landscape had been cleared
and leveled for the Commissioners' grid
program of straight streets and angled
intersections; Anything in the way was
just moved out and never mentioned again.
They only saved what became Central Park
because the ultra-rich back then demanded
their accustomed open spaces - they used to
race their horses and carriages, and have
speed-runs up Bloomingdale Road. They
refused to lose the area where the park is,
and besides, they wanted those squatters and
their filthy shacks moved out. Indians too,
there used to be an entire village there of
blacks and Indians, living peaceably together.
Now, only some names remain - 'Murray
Hill,' 'Turtle Bay', etc. If you know your stuff,
the tiniest, most secret remnants of things can
still be found. Washington Square Park, before
it was called 'Park', just Washington Square, once
had the Minetta Brook running right through it.
Early on, about 1820 maybe, they sluiced and
channeled and buried it, BUT, adjacent to the
park now, until recently anyway, there was (is)
an apartment house with a large lobby, doormen,
desk-clerks and all that junk, and in that lobby,
from about 1910, built into the wall (I've gone
in and seen it numerous times, though not
recently) they have a clear piece of large
plastic piping or tubing, behind glass, on
view. You can see Minetta Brook, right there,
in that lobby, at the wall, running along its
way. Of course, everyone is completely
oblivious to this and the last time I was there
it ended up ME telling the Spanish doorman
guy who only watchfully let me into the lobby,
what it all was. Yes, too, I'm sure he thought
I was one of the zanies.
This was, as I mentioned, and as I walked along,
most all in my head. I wasn't satisfied to just accept
the crud I saw - filthy streets, dangerous places,
plain old stuff. I sensed that all of the old and the
at still lingered and that every street, building, and
corner had stories to tell me. That's putting a lot
on myself, of course, because it was then up to
me to learn of, read abut, and find a lot of this
history. It used to be difficult, not like today.
About now, every other day there's some sort
of fund-raising or TV history malarkey going on
and claiming to historically and accurately
present to you as viewer the tales and the histories
and stories of new York City. It's all crap. All
they do is spin the nicer stuff nicely. They're
shills and liars.
I was always captivated by words too. I'd
be walking along and a catch-phrase or
something on a sign or a building or an
advertisement would hold my attention.
I'd read everything I could, even the
cast-off stuff. I sometimes think the story
of mankind is the story of language;
whether it's engrained in our personal
DNA each, as Noam Chomsky once had
it put, or not; whether we have an integral
part of our being with a 'language-consciousness'
built in, facilitating our communication and
logic, getting our world done, I never knew
or decided exactly. That was too tedious for
me, and I never drove hard for Science anyway.
This all lives on - even today I'm freaky
with words : same words captivate me too,
like 'support' and 'impede', they both come
out meaning 'hold up.' Huh? Or, say, 'give
approval to' and express disapproval; both
are to 'sanction'. See how I mean? 'Watchful
care', and 'careless mistake.' They're both
'oversight.' Crazy game stuff in the head.