"I feel like I gotta write a book that's mine alone and exists for no reason than I need to get something off my chest. I wanna be an artist."
[In the last episode, the main character who is not really the main character but the author as a narrative character, like a Greek chorus with only one old Greek shouting responses at the cold winds blowing across the empty stone seats of the ampitheater, growling at first then howling like a wolf against a huge bulbous moon while Pat Boone's common daughter sings, "You light up my life" was tripping in the early sixties city of Detroit with his pal Big Bad John and BBJ's sister Girl. Then a problem developed and the main character who is not the main character suddenly realized he could no longer paw the typewriter to type out this story since it was too personal, too cracking him up and driving him to drink or worse--besides that story was simply a story within the big story, a flashback if you will, to impress upon the reader(s) the effect those early-sixties Detroit musics had on him so that he could write about a few years later when a NEW Detroit music, a white Detroit music, emerged out of the ground-setting rhythm and blues that suddenly was gushing from Detroit's airwaves, from low-down Delta blues to the moderne trippings of Little Stevie Wonder to the celestial wonderment of a Sun Ra. But that story got away from me, that main character who really isn't the main character.]
Ugh. It was hard to get out of bed today. I'd rather have gone into a dream world and just forgotten reality and then continuing life either in a dream of my own construction or my slipping into someone else's dream. But then this episodic epic arose from by my being awakened from that dreamstate, a beermare state in my case, one fine spring morning by Bobby Fuller's "I Fought the Law and the Law Won" at a high-energy, speeded-up wild menagerie of twanging, rattler-rolling, schmeers and a cradle-kicking drummer boy who seemed to be 70 beats ahead of the vocalist who was as far as my sleepy ears could tell was definitely from amateur hell.
So now, as the old radio serials used to say, "And now back to our story."
If there is something out of date about this writing, that's because what I'm writing about is long since out of date though in a hysterical sense (did you think I meant "historical"?) it still dominates white rock and white rockers and the future of white rock, the "pure" rock, the rock that brought out the Amurican punk--yes, English assholes were more punkish than Amuricans because like a lot of European lads they were brought up on Old West fantasies, the belligerent peacefulness of the Beats, and the just out-and-out continuous innovations coming out of American blues and jazz. I find it interesting that this punker (pseudo or otherwise) I'm writing about was first a big fan of Charles Mingus and John Coltrane before he heard his first rock.
So we're back in New York City. It's now the fall and winter of the coming spring of discontent due to Bobby Fuller's tune done gone wrong, the fall of 1978 it would be, a mild fall, yo, yo, yo, man; if it was to be a bad winter, I don't remember. If it was a bad winter, so what, I only lived a few raggedy steps from my apartment around the corner to my office in the Ear Inn.
I was in the Ear and once again here comes Matty Quick back into the story, my nextdoor neighbor through the north brick wall of my butter and egg loft, and by then my friend, though we weren't ever really friends. Musicians are never really good friends but we are very respectful of each other as musicians and in that sense we become musician friends, a kind of friendship that is subject to many ins and outs, many ups and downs, and sometimes many divisions, but that's the kind of friendship I had with Matty; Matty knew I could play music, his roommate (he actually lived in an apartment above Matty's) had loaned me his 50's slick red Comet organ, he said he'd gotten it off the B-52s who'd used it on one of their long-forgotten albums, and Matty had been at that gig in the Ear Inn when I played that organ and Matty I'm sure played drums with that band one time, too, though Matty wasn't a good 4/4 drummer, which was the kind of music we played in that band.
Matty's real friends were his friends from his growing up in Brooklyn and then the friends he developed at Brooklyn College and friends of those friends, etc., and on this day Matty zoomed into the Ear, slopped back a quick drink, turned to me and said, "Hey, Wolfie, you wanna play stickball with us? We're gonna be playin' right outside your loft, man, with Barretti's as our backstop."
Barretti's was a garbage hauling company owned by a dude we all knew by sight and smell, Phil Barretti. The indie garbage haulers in those days were totally Italian controlled--yep, the mob was in the garbage business and our neighborhood's mob boss was a man named V. Ponte, the godfather who resided above and held court daily at his famous restaurant, Ponte's Steak House down just on the otherside of Canal on Washington, at one time the North River (Hudson River) shore; Washington Street was built on landfill, landfill that ran out into the river hundreds of feet and on which the huge ship docks were built. At the end of Canal was the ship dock through which most of our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters came as immigrants to this country back in the post-WWI days through the roaring twenties. Next to the PuertoRican dock was a huge Cunard dock; these were mostly falling into the river at the time I'm writing about.
Ponte also had a carting company and was Phil Barretti's backer. Barretti had two big Mack garbage trucks at first, a small one and then a huge one, both of them chromed to the hilt, painted forest green with gold strippings in fillagre designs over their massive hoods up to the big sterling silver bulldogs, the Mack symbol, up on their radiators. Above the windshield were the name plates of the truck: like "Big F-in' Boy" or the one I remember was "Little Phil," the biggest and most disgustingly loud truck Big Phil owned.
My loft was directly across Greenwich Street from Barretti's and by the time he went full-swing haulin' garbage Phil bought two more huge Macks each more gaudily elaborately painted and striped than the last--and I forgot, atop each truck's cab was a full set of Leslie airhorns, too--tritone airhorns that could wake you from the dead when blown in anger or trumpeting the arrival of a fresh load of garbage. What these mob garbage haulers did was fire up their trucks exactly every morning at 3 am from which time they idled roaringly until they moved out on their garbage runs about 30 minutes later. The racket was enough to wake the...but I've already said that--it was psychologically mind-warping to have to be ready for Barretti's big Macks to boom the neighborhood awake every 3 am except Sunday but you acclimated to it and accepted it as part of the scenery and the aural future history. Even the mob takes Sundays off. Hey, come on, Goombahs go to mass--mob mass! [Our neighborhood mob priest was Father Gigante who became a famous New York City character and once ran for mayor back in those days.] Then these monster Macks would roll out across the city collecting restaurant and business garbage and then at about 8 in the morning they'd come crashing and thundering back home loaded to the max with garbage and garbage water running off the backs of the trucks like small filthy Niagara Falls, to dump their garbage inside Barretti's barn-like building--5 stalls, 4 stalls for the trucks and one stall for the garbage. Yep, these bastards dumped raw garbage in that stall and it sometimes would sit there for a couple'a days afterwards--and yes there were rats--hundreds of rats--you could look out my loft window at any time of day or night and yep you'd see some rats--but you didn't call the cops on Phil Barretti or the health department on him, hell no, you knew better than that; Phil was a dangerous dude and we all knew and tolerated his crap--"Hey, my son, he's'ah cop; he told'ah me you called duh cops on me duh-other night?" "Oh no, Phil, your son must have mistaken me for someone else; I'd never turn you in to the cops, never, swear on me old mother's soul." "OK, I-ah forget'a'bout it this time, but...." I didn't want to hear what happened after that "but...."
So Barretti dumped his garbage in one of his stalls and I mean it was piled high as elephant droppings in that stale old barn of a building. Of course there was an odor, too; it reeked through the neighborhood, it tinged the air, gave the air a shit flavor as opposed to the smells from the spice and coffee company that nestled next to the Ear Inn back on Spring Street and whose delicious odors came wafting over my building from the west. The pleasant smell of the spices and roasting coffee beans clashed with the smell of the garbage and left the area right over Greenwich Street with a thick sickly sweet pungency that made you think of opened graves and putrid mince pies. On Sunday, Barretti's was shut tight until 3 am Mondays when the shit noise and shit hauling and dumping began again.
Fortunately, my schedule kept me out of my loft from noon until the Ear closed around 4:30 am so that by the time the Barretti trucks brought their garbage in and dumped it at 8, I was smashed dead asleep and oblivous to any noise, EXCEPT, and I've already told you that exception. At 9 the Barretti trucks would be running the garbage from the garbage stall and trucking it illegally over to Jersey where they didn't need any permits to dump over there--and god knows what was in that garbage. I swear I saw a body in one of Big Red's (one of Barretti's drivers) loads one time--there were rats eating on it; it could have been a dead animal, though it looked human to me--though, come on, folks, I lived in a high-fantasy world in those days of Panama Red, Acapulco Gold, Sans Semilia, black beauties, Lysergic Acid, schrooms, Angel Dust, China White, Emerald City (that's what we called crystal meth), brown heroin, and the first Ecstasy pills I ever saw. Long before the Ecstasy craze caught on, the prostitutes all carried Ecstasy with them. The first time I heard about Ecstasy was from this chick in the Ear who had a couple a tabs with her. She said they enhanced both the male and the female's sexual performance but that they were especially affective with females. "I fucked six dudes pulling a train down in Pompano Beach, Florida, about a month ago and I was hollering, 'Where are the rest of you dicks; is six all I get?'" Of course, in the drug world every new-fangled drug is looked on with hope by true druggies--surely this one will carry me further than that last one. So drugs, booze, and rock and roll did become the threeway slice of life we lived in those days--every morning you got up and immediately did a joint; then you'd go to the Ear and start drinking at noon--unless you were an alcoholic (I used to have a train set and one of the buildings was called Al Cohol's Warehouse; wasn't that cool for a little kid? I didn't figure it out until I was much older) and then you had a joint and had busted into and pretty much chugged down a six pack by the time noon came and you were at the Ear tossing back the first Murphy's Irish Whiskey of the day.
I knew an old dockworker who was in the bar every morning at 6 am sloshing down shots of Fleishmann's and backing them up with short beers; JR was his name--yep, that was his name JR, R was his last name, see?--and by every evening, we once figured, this dude had done several joints, drank a couple'a fifths of Fleishmann's, plus he was a codeine head and he wrote his own script for codeine on pads he'd stolen from his union doctor. JR's favorite saying was, "You think it's easy?" I mean, he'd answer your question with that question. "JR, how the hell you doing?" "Why, you think it's easy?" JR died as he lived, in the street. They found him dead on the sidewalk waiting for the Emerald Pub to open one morning after I had long-gone and left the neighborhood and moved Uptown--and oh my God, I won't mention the Emerald Pub now and Sandy the Goofy barkeep and her nosy collie, the crooked snookers games, and a men's room so filthy guys couldn't even stand to piss in it and instead staggered just outside the rear door to piss near the garbage cans--God help you if you had to shit in Emerald men's room. "There's so much shit piled up in that crapper there's no where left to shit in there. Might as well shit your pants as to shit in that dump."
So after Matty invited me to join he and Ratso and some other buds in a stickball game--with the little Spall-Ding and the broom-handle bat--and I turned him down--he left the Ear and when I walked back to my loft later, they were still in the street playing stickball. There were two new dudes playing with Matty and Ratso--two dudes I'd not seen before, both kind'a tall, with long curly black hair, nice Jewish boys it was easy to see, one of them wearing a Ramones tee shirt. "Hey, dudes," I hollered at the boyz. "Hey, Wolfie, com'mere," Matty hollered. "Yeah, whaz up?" "Meet Mitch and David. They're in a new band I'm startin' up--we'll be rehearsing in a few days, just thought I'd warn you." And that's how I met Mitch and David.
I had never really heard any rehearsing from Matty's apartment before. Yeah, his stereo played loud, yes. Our fire escapes were aligned with each other and sometimes Matty would sit out on his fire escape drinking orange juice and vodkas while ripping his stereo up to a ten on the loud pot and I would go out and talk to him and then we'd pass a doob back and forth for awhile, but that was it for noise from Matty's apartment until....
[What Happened to Phil Barretti?--an aside:
Philip Barretti (affiliated with Barretti Carting, Nekboh Recycling, and Bay Sanitation) used to handle the local trash of the U.S. Justice Department. He was allegedly involved in burning the truck of a non-Mafia (and undercover) garbage-hauler. Then, he allegedly lured the victim to a meeting where he allegedly had a henchman punch and choke the victim. Mr. Barretti is also accused of coaching a witness to falsely testify in a union grievance proceeding. One of his companies allegedly got at least $70,000 in extortion money from the undercover garbage-hauler. Barretti's customers include American Express, Chase Manhattan, Citicorp, Federal Reserve Bank, IBM, Merrill Lynch, New York Life, U.S. Customs House, Wendy's, and the Yale Club. When Gulf War heroes returned for a victory parade in New York City in 1991, he picked up the trash for free. Barretti's plant allegedly was shut down by the state for operating without a permit. The reporter (non-criminally?) found out that, last October, Barretti was arrested for alleged assault. One of Barretti's sons was convicted for assaulting an environmental protestor picketing Barretti's plant.]
From hearings preparations into the investigation of the Mafia controlling the New York City garbage carting industry.
To be continued as is continued when being continued.
for The Daily Growler