Monday, August 7, 2017

9817. RUDIMENTS, pt. 36

Making Cars
There's a class of people below class,
a caste below caste, subalterns  -  I
think that's the word. If they ever 
report or write about anything of
themselves, it's from the depths, 
mostly from the lowest levels of
what can be. In so many respects,
as I was growing up, I felt exactly 
like that. Once that realization hit, 
it for most practical aspects ended
it all for me. People talk of and write 
about that climb up and out  -  of
whatever class hole or poverty jungle
someone is in. They can talk themselves
blue but pretty much one is stuck in
place. There are always the telltale
characteristics that remain, even among 
the most successful of people. They've
just reached a point though where their
money and station can appropriately
hide all that. Money and new-found
station can become a real problem.
I used to read all that religious stuff 
too, in the seminary, about the Son of
Man, beleaguered, lamb to slaughter, 
the suffering one, the downtrodden, the 
lowest, man of sorrows and tribulations, 
and the rest, and I'd try to figure what 
schizophrenic picture of Manhood they 
(the church) were trying to paint. I
never got their story straight : the 'Savior'
as dog? The church seemed to be the 
last place for anyone like me to be 
coming through. The role that was 
looming was for me, to become a figure 
to instill in others the conviction that,
unfortunately, I myself was lacking, 
was quite simply wrong, It could not
possibly work. I knew it to be fake.
I've made mention before of the 
influx of the non-New York types 
who were streaming in to the lower 
east side that first Summer '67. The
media had somehow made it all out 
to be the 'Summer of Love.' Perhaps it 
was, somewhere. But, in place there,
that was a real crock. These California 
people who kept coming in were but 
one branch of  the far more vast rat-trap 
of runaways and malcontents which 
was surfacing from places like Long 
Island, New Jersey, Queens and the rest.
I don't know if places like Massachusetts,
Connecticut, and even Pennsylvania, had 
their own consignees of home-grown local 
hippies, but in my part of NYC they were 
just drooling. The California people seemed 
to have gotten started with all this a year 
or two earlier, so they were already savvy 
as they transplanted that ethos to us, or 
tried to. The problem was, maybe outside 
of like the Charles Manson Branch Davidians 
sort of fragment, the Californians had never
been exposed to the lousy viciousness of
New York. Happiness and a feigned innocence
can only bring you so far. New York was, by 
any comparison, Murder Incorporated. Some 
of these California people just were not ready for
that. One example being the Diggers Free Store 
contingent. I forge the incidentals now, 10th 
street was the Free Store and 6th street was 
where they lived, maybe, something like that.
Emmet Grogan and such people, of which there
was a hard-core leadership crew, names of
which I truly cannot recall. The Free Store was,
basically, just that  - you take what you 'needed'. 
Poor choice of words, because people took what
they wanted, and the rest be damned (this was still
New York, remember). The girls who ran this
thing were any number of a quite beautiful bunch
of California maidens whose idea of bliss was to
have no clothes on. Nothing, Not a stitch. That
was often way too much to take. For me, yeah, 
but also for a number of these new York 
hardcore-Jake types. They little understood the 
grace and ease of that happiness and light and
lovey-dovey stuff. There's a certain type of New
Yorker (Hell, who am I kidding, it's Everyman),
who sees proclaimed nudity as an invitation to
fornicate, and that's about it. Right there alone,
battle lines were drawn for the next war between
the states  -  the state of California versus the 
state of New York; the state of dress versus 
the state of undress; the state of proper decorum 
versus the state of rambunctious, hair-curling, 
hard-driving, sexual aggressiveness. California 
hippie girls stood no chance. Not a bit. It didn't
last long; the California contingent was over 
before it started really, and the Free Store soon 
enough had degenerated into a basic food-pantry 
and hand-out free-meal service. Everyone showed
up. In fact, long after the hippie days had burned
out and vanished, the nearby Tompkins Square
Park, until the later 90's anyway, remained as a
service bay for free assistance, food, clothing,
water, and whatever else. Indigents, bums, losers,
punks, ex-hippie leftovers, music-hardcores all
lined up daily, at all hours, in the expectations of
the next food-table or supply truck to be pulling in.
Seeing all of this from the bottom, as it were, I
understood right off that my place was no place.
(I used to think about those girls to, seeing all 
that 'from the bottom,' as well). Who was it, 
later, Springsteen or somebody, who sang 
about it being 'hard to be saint in the city...'
I had my 'Art' motivations and Studio School 
things to tend to and really could not divest 
any more of my time, at least once late 
September and then October had really 
rolled around, into advancing these issues 
any more. I sort of sashayed sideways 
silently out. But, remember, the place was
still mine, in my name. (That didn't bode
well for the later things that were to occur). 
I can remember, 1967, by the really hard 
cold of, I guess, November, being out of 
11th Street as much as I could be  -  by that 
time I was more comfortable living in the 
old basement of the Studio School mansion. 
In my makeshift quarters. I'd go back to 
11th street and no one would know me
anyway  -   it all being transients then
on their way out, to Canada, and all those 
draft-fleeing people I spoke about previous, 
in other distant chapters. We'd managed, I'll
say, a good foundation for running AWOL
military runaways right up to Canada instead
of Pleiku. My own situation demanded I
stay to my subaltern station and get down 
to my own work. Which I did, by pen, 
brush, and pencil. It was only sometime
later that the troubles ensued.

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