Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Living in New York City--With Only Thinking to Do

Foto by tgw, Gotham, 2007.
"Sittin' Here Thinkin'"

Real talers have the same existence that the imagined gods have. Has a real taler any existence except in the imagination, if only in the general or rather common imagination of man? Bring paper money into a country where this use of paper is unknown, and everyone will laugh at your subjective imagination

from Karl Marx's graduate dissertation, see: www.marxists.org/archive/marx/
I am sitting here thinking on a colding-up-again Tuesday morning in Gotham. Nobody calls it Gotham any more. There aren't many Gothamites or Gothamic parts of New York City left. Washington Irving first called it "Gotam" or "Gotham" after the English city whose citizens were considered madmen, though, it was added, they were wise enough to pass themselves off as fools rather than what they really were. I'd say that fits a typical hardbound New York City survivor. While I'm here, let me quickly advise you not to confuse Washington Irving's Gotham with Batman's Gotham City. Batman's creators invented his Gotham City--it ran from 14th Street downtown all the way to the harbor. That city's center was centered around the area that housed the offices of DC Comics (or "comix" as my generational madmen used to spell it).

After my Haitian divorce and after a sabbatical that lasted almost a year--4 months in Haiti, a month in the heart of Texas, and then several months revisiting old haunts like San Francisco, Juarez, Mexico, and Santa Fe, New Mexico--I moved back to Gotham where I found myself homeless. I'd given up my rights to what had once been "our" apartment but that legally was now "her" apartment. So I had no legal New York City address. My Texas driver's license gave my legal address as one of my brother's old addresses in Dallas. I was 2,000 miles from that address but only a few blocks from my last address, East 56th and Sutton Place. Still I was homeless, with a sling bag of dirty clothes over my shoulder, but fortunately not totally wiped out, since I carried an active American Express card and a billfold full of cash in my back jeans pocket. Plus, I was determined to stay in New York City even if I had to sleep in the fucking street.

I'd come back into Manhattan from Kennedy Airport on the Carey Bus Lines. I had gotten off the Carey bus at their bus stop that was right across 42nd Street from Grand Central Terminal (I'm snooty, that's its proper name).

Grand Central can be a sanctuary for the homeless according to a homeless class system. If you're homeless because you're totally fleeced by the system and a little out of your friggin' mind then you head for the innards of this grand railroad station, its underground, its network of far under the station's lowest depths of apartment complexes for the hopeless homeless and Gothamites who've lost their madness and have become total fools.

On the other hand, however, if you were in my homeless class, the still-financially able, still decently dressed, kind of all-American looking, then you know to use Grand Central as a temporary terminus for getting your logistics together. So the homeless with some bucks on his ass goes into Grand Central and heads back to the terminal's bank of pay telephones just off the big room or the bank down on the second level by where you get the trains to North White Plains.

I went to the phone bank just off the big room, over at the back end of Zabar's. It was one of those banks New York Telephone had just put in that had a row of New York City phone books mounted in aluminum holders between the phone banks that when you pulled the phone book you wanted up out of its slot, it opened up automatically and gave you a solid base on which to sit it as you flipped through looking for that phone number you needed to save yourself.

I flipped up the Manhattan Yellow Pages--Wow! how long ago am I talking about?--remember when the White Pages and the Yellow Pages were simply the stupid New York City telephone books, published under the auspices of the phone companies themselves? Think of how many millions of phones there are among New York City's 14-million human population. [Do we have cell phones for pets yet? Hey, there's a good idea for one of you enterprising go-getters, one of you believers in Capitalism and the mighty taler.] The Yellow Pages housed information on and the ads of Manhattan's hotels, both the luxurious and the flea bag varieties. I trundled through those jaundice-yellow cheap-paper pages to the hotels section. Of all the hotels I found there, the closest one and the nicest one, I thought from its ad, I could afford was the Hotel Gotham. It's eighth-of-a-page ad said it charged 50 bucks a night for a single with a color teevee and big double bed. Plus the picture of the hotel in the ad made it look elegant and it was in one of my favorite Midtown Manhattan areas, the theater district just off Broadway on West 52nd Street. And West 52nd Street, once called "Swing Street" and later "Jazz Alley" in its riproaring days, still had a lingering-on of three or four jazz joints operating in the space off Sixth Avenue now housing the Equitable Building--once known as the Pink Elephant Building due to its huge cost overruns and the fact it turned out to be not a very attractive building.

So as a homeless man on a Grand Central pay phone called up the Hotel Gotham and asked them if they had a 50-buck-a-night room available. Yes, the reservations clerk replied, they had a $50 room available. By the week? I asked. Yes, they had a $50 room available by the week--one week in advance. How much for one week? $325 weekly. You mean I save only fucking 25 bucks with a weekly rate? No, you're right, I didn't argue. I took the room at $325 a week.

I ended up living at the Gotham for a month. It was great because it was situated right in the middle of the theater district plus it was just up the street from still-running Jimmy Ryan's Club where Roy Eldridge was leading the band. Next door to Jimmy Ryan's was Eddie Condon's, the old Chicago banjo-picker's club, where the house band was Bull Davidson or Jimmy McPartland on trumpet, Bud Freeman on tenor, Vic Dickenson on the trambone, Pops Foster the old New Orleans slap-stylist on bass, Eddie himself on acoustic guitar (by the 70s banjos had long been put to rest in jazz museums), and George Wettling on drums. Across the street from Jimmy Ryan's was the Half Note, which had moved uptown in the early 70s from down on Hudson and Spring streets downtown and featured the big names of the day like Roland Kirk or Dizzy Gillespie.
A Night at Eddie Condon's

The Gotham Hotel was a clean well-lighted hotel but a whorehouse just the same. Every time I got on the elevator some street glamor girls in high decor and perfumed beyond the atmosphere got on with me, keeping their decorum around me, batting their eyes and talking, if they talked, like, "Is it gonna rain, girl?" "I dunno. My teevee's broken in my room. I've told that son of a bitch at the desk about it and he just winks at me." "I hate that son of a bitch. I hate this hotel. I hate it when it fucking rains." If they talked that's how they talked. Usually, though, they just batted their eyes and stared vapidly up at the elevator's ceiling.

I can safely say every apartment building I've lived in in New York City, including the one I live in now, at one time or other had a quietly operating whorehouse floor within its premises--usually on the 1st floors or the very top floors. Landlords love having whorehouses in their buildings because the whorehouse proprietors pay exceptionally more rent than an average market-valued renter. In my building, the whorehouse was paying $6,000-a-month per room for four large rooms before they were shut down. Think about that? Plus these whorehouses are constantly being raided by the cops and put out of business leaving the landlord holding a big wad of cash (first and last month's rents plus security deposits and key fees) for his offshore bank account.

The landlords and the whores are still very Gothamite in this city.

Going into my second month at the Gotham, I realized I couldn't afford to keep living there. It was costing me $1300-a-month to live there and in those days that kind of money could get you a penthouse apartment in the best addresses in Manhattan.

So one day I left the Gotham and just started walking crosstown over back east toward my ex-wife and my ex-apartment, that area. I was, I think, maybe going back and begging her to let me shack there until I could find a place. I mean it was a big enough apartment I wouldn't bother her staying there a week or so. I swayed a bit off course on the way over to East 56th and ended up on East 57th and Third Avenue. I spotted a bar on the far side of where I was on 57th and I went in there and ordered a Heineken. A Spanish fellow was sitting next to me at the bar drinking rum. The drunker he got the more friendly he became with everybody around him and then especially me. Son of a bitch, he was chortling, there are no kinder people in the world than people from Argentina. Viva Argentina! And then he started saying how the most beautiful young girls in the world were chicas Argentinas, the most voluptuous, the most sexual, the most romantic. After awhile, he asked me, "Why do you look so sad, my friend? If we were in Argentina now, my friend, I would cheer you up, but since we are not in Argentina, what can I do for you?" "Nothin', dude, unless you own an apartment building with an empty apartment in it for about $200 a month...." "How about $250 a month? How 'bout $250 a month with a one month free rent incentive if you take a two-year lease?" "You know of an apartment?" "Yes, I'm the superintendent of that building right over there--come here." He took me over to the plate glass window and pointed toward a regular-looking tan brick apartment building, about 18 or 20 stories, with an interesting blue-tile-designed front. "Come with me right now. You fill out a standard lease agreement, give me some references, a 50-dollar security deposit, which I'll give you back after you pay your first monthly payment, which will be your second-month's rent." "Shit yeah, I'm game, let's go do the paperwork. These apartments have showers?" "You bet, nice tiled showers; plenty of hot water, too."

We went across the street and in less than an hour I had rented and occupied a very tiny, cramped, and drably dark and narrow studio apartment. It was clean however. It had a nice "modern" kitchen, a closet-like space but a nice range and good fridge. And it had a one-holer-small bathroom but with a glorious big brown porcelain tub with a powerful jet-like shower head--and before I even looked out the apartment's only window, I had shed my clothes and was boppin' away in the shower cleansing both my body and my soul (with Hotel Gotham soap). I was no longer a homeless Gothamite. And, in case you're asking, was there a whorehouse in this apartment building? Turns out there was--on the 18th floor--all Argentinian chicas--snobbish girls who wouldn't speak to tenants. Also, after I'd lived there a few months, a black woman moved next door to me. Our beds shared the same thin flimsy sheetrock wall (typical apartment wall in NYC apartments no matter the luxury status--no soundproofing in any wall or ceiling at all)--and one night action in her bed was like it was in my bed--it woke me up--and she was moanin' away like an owl fixed on LSD tabs--whooooo, ooooo, whooooooo, ooohh. The bed banging the wall. I met her on the elevator one day. She said her name was Sweet. And yes Sweet turned out to be a high-priced whore. And, yes, for many a night I suffered through Sweet trying to please one of her paying customers. One night we had a fire in the building and we were told by the firemen suddenly on the spot that we all had to use the stairs and get down to the lobby immediately--no we couldn't use the elevator. I knocked on Sweet's door as I passed thinking maybe she hadn't heard the alarm or the firemen.

When I got down to the lobby, Sweet was already down there. She was sitting on the lobby floor wearing a mink jacket and all cuddled up with a young-looking boy toy who was wrapped in a pink blanket. Suddenly I realized looking at Sweet, she was naked under that fur jacket--as she caught my eyes realizing that realization, she opened the fur to flash her very nice perky breasts at me--accompanied by a very SWEET and advertising smile.

I am just sittin' here thinkin' this morning, about that past time when there was still a Gothamite air about NYC...and still a Gotham Hotel. And I was young, stupid, horny, totally unambitious, as irresponsible as G.W. Bush was with our lives, my mission in life to be a character in a novel of my own generating, directing, and putting into words, a character who was a writer and whose work was to sit all day and night in a room of his own and write in schoolboy notebooks what he called "dream scenarios"--which I copy-catted after having reread F. Scott Fitzgerald's Crack Up, but really after reading Jack Kerouac's Book of Dreams, a used copy I'd bought at one of the used book stalls in Bryant Park.

--and, whoaaa, let's bring the dray to a halt at the steps leading up into Bryant Park off Sixth Avenue (when I first came to NYC, the city was still trying to promote 6th Avenue as "the Avenue of the Americas," originally a Robert Moses effort to promote his 1964 flop New York World's Fair, the one he built on a land fill out in Flushing Meadows under which is still buried centuries of Queens, New York, garbage) [Mr. Ed: Our pal, L Hat, has corrected our spontaneously remembered Wolf Man's contention that Robert Moses trumped up the "Avenue of the Americas" tag as a promo for his 1964 New York World's Fair. L Hat set him straight laying the Avenue of the Americas name change on good ole Comix-reading Mayor Fiorello, for whom La Guardia Airport is named. Wolf Man is notorious about his being "almost" right on some things--not totally right, you understand. A half-truth is still a truth, eh? Come on, folks, that's good horse sense.]

At that time you could buy used books in Bryant Park's many book stalls that sat Paris-parc-like around the park's big marble Gothic fountain. Bryant Park in those days (in back of the Public Library) was still a leftover part of the Gotham scene. It was still a People's Park. A great expanse of open lawn--a space for usually closet-bound and sardine-can-packed New Yorkers to lose themselves solo out in this lawn's lap that was filled with startling sunlight on cloudless days--that lawn framed by a rectangular ring of two great huge-tree tree-lined rows of interlacing walkways lined with old-timey-type park benches, some facing 42nd Street, but most facing that great lawn--the park always full of people--free spirits, rabble rousers, lost generations, strivers, all jammed in among themselves--the hardworking masses. And those wonderful old-style wooden green-painted bookstalls were jammed full of just the used books you were expecting to find--plus you inevitably would always also find a book you hadn't been expecting to find but for which you may have been looking for for years...

And then I hear in my noggin a huge CRASH: BAMMMMM...SPLAT!

You see the problem I've run into here? New York City is no longer anything like the New York City I'm sitting here remembering and beginning to get nostalgic over. Such thinking begins to seem a big waste of time when I suddenly return to the real-time earth--and suddenly the wolf in me starts looking forward to a full moon again--and I'm hungry for some fresh bloody meat, dammit, and once again my wolf NOSE is on the prowl for rich, fat, conspicuously wasteful, plump, Plutocrat belly meat--I can smell the wild odorous stench of it from miles away.

Whew. That fall back to earth was sudden, a little jolting, though I landed on all four paws upright. And just as I landed, my old Philco tube radio sprang to life and the next thing I know I'm listening to Michael Moore talking to good ole Amy Good(wo)man on Democracy Now about how fucking depressed he is about the recent horrifying Neo-Con-emerging events going on in the District of Corruption and also by the Dumbocrat Party goof in Massachusetts that led to the Teabagging Daddy takeover of old Unka Teddy's Kennedy-claimed Senate seat. Seems rather naive Martha Coakley wasn't prepared to have those slimy and smegma-covered balls of nude-model Scott Brown hanging over her tensely puckered lips. The Dumbo heads thought she was a shoo in...how depressing that she wasn't it was for Michael Moore. And Michael's also deeply depressed over Obama's "changes"...and how disappointed Michael's been with Obama's first year in the White Man's House...and what wimps Michael thinks the Dumbocrats are--and then he starts talking about how he's hoping when Obama gives his State of the Union address he's a man about everything and apologizes to the American people and admits he failed at holding out the olive branch of peace to the opposition and he failed at everything he promised...but the main thing for Michael is that Obama apologizes...and by that point I'm screaming, "Michael, Michael, I know you're right--I know you know exactly what's happening--but the solution doesn't lie in Obama apologizing--Obama will never lower himself to the House Negro level--no, on the other hand he will continue to defend his intentions and he'll continue to tell us he trusts his advisors and that they are keeping him well advised and blah, blah, blah. Ya hear me, Michael?"

Like our own Austin Highchew so empirically and astutely related in his post where he analyzed how President Obama uses his brilliant speeches as shields against attack--and also to deflect the arrows of contention flying at him, some of them flaming, and divert attention away from his failures and onto his made-up successes. Like he'll tout the "recovering" economy based on Wall Street statistics and January consumer reports--you'll see.

I like Michael Moore. I appreciate his humanist approach to filmmaking. Plus, he's making his home in Flint, Michigan, and some of my best friends are from Flint, Michigan, like our own thedailygrowlerhousepianist...plus I also used to daily interact with Michael Moore's wife's best friend who was from Flint, and I know his frustration and the truth of what he has scripted, set up, and filmed--I saw "Sicko" and found it very powerful from my point of view but too controversial for our white ruling majority's insistence that God and country right or wrong is the ultimate DECIDER in these matters--and the White God is a Capitalist god--a for-profit god--a aod you cannot tax! And saving souls to this god means making those souls rich enough so they can live well above the average scumbag everyday everybody who's lucky to live an average of 6 months or at their fittest maybe 35 years unless he's able to "Strike It Rich" "Eureka!" and suddenly find himself basking and fornicating among the gods.

One of my ex-wives was right: all of us should start our own churches--she made that comment as we attended a wedding in a huge Gotham-Gothic Catholic church in Uptown Manhattan. As she said, "Look, with your own church you get to live in a fucking castle--look at this place--and look out back there, that's a garden out there--what a life!"

But, back to Michael Moore's depression, I really haven't been keeping up with Commander in Chief Obama and his US Army of late. But I can assure Michael Moore he's gonna be more depressed after the President's State of the Union address fails to give him even a dash of hope. Flint's gotta go down a little further toward the bottom, Michael, now that the Neo-Cons totally control Obama through the Supreme-Court-of-Jerk Offs's decision giving Corporations First Amendment rights (they were made citizens back in the days John D. Rockefeller ruled the world)--the free-speech amendment, a decision, I now learn from Michael Moore, that was partially decided over a free-speech case brought before the Court based around a teevee commercial slandering Hillary Clinton and not allowed to run and Michael Moore's "Farenheit 911," which was backed by Mickey Mouse's corporate behemoth, the Disney Co., a corporation, being allowed to run in theaters ("Farenheit 911" slandered Goofy Ass G.W. Bush as being representative of the C-minus dumbass intelligence that was letting this country drift towards economic hell and forcing our ways into boxed in canyons of unending wars. Moore says he does suffer from Catholic guilt over his role in this Supreme Court decision).

I did, however, see some encouraging news coming yesterday out of the Great Democratic Islamic Republic United Tribes of Iraq. The Iraqi Freely Elected Democratic Christianized Islamic Republic Parliament announced they had finally executed Chemical Ali. Remember Chemical Ali? Whew. we're finally rid of that creep. Now let's remember, what was he guilty of? Let's see, it says here he was guilty of gassing 30,000 Kurds back when Donald Rumsfeld was his best buddy--oh, that's right, and Ali was one of Pappy Bush's former best buddies, too--and these birds were all best buddies with Saddam Hussein. AND WHO SENT SADDAM AND ALI ALL THAT GAS THAT KILLED THOSE KURDS?

And isn't it interesting, while I'm on the subject of these assholes's old buddies, that General Noriega, remember him?, was also at one time one of Pappy Bush's best buddies. That was when it was scandalously alledged that General Noriega ran Pappy's surplus cocaine business down in "our" Republic of Panama (see Monroe Doctrine).

By the way, We the People created Panama out of land we stole from Colombia in order to takeover the building of the Panama Canal and eventually the Isthmus of Panama at a time when we thought the way to rule the world was on the high seas and with a big bad big-guns-aimed-at-all-the-landlubbers navy. This is the time old weakling-at-birth Teddy Roosevelt created the Great WHITE Fleet, which he sailed around the world with pompous glory, painted all white as though it were appearing out of the heavens as the sun reflected off of it on a bright sunny day or how threatening it stood out blaring WHITE on a stormy thunder-rolling-fierce-cloudy dark day. Steaming full-speed ahead, the Great White Fleet carried a banner waving madly under the US flag that carried Teddy's Bull Moose motto, a weakling's motto, a bully's motto, "Speak softly but carry a big stick." The Capitalist US has followed this motto ever since Teddy created it. We the White People of the USA, we who own and rule the USA, "speak with forked tongue" (as our Native American citizens clarified it), sweet talking your ass out one corner of our mouths while planning your demise out the other corner. As soon as we gain your confidence, we hit your ass over the head with one of our big sticks!

I think Obama is carrying forth that "Speak softly and carry a big stick" philosophy. He knows full well if he were to apologize and admit he's been wrong-directional with his trying to neglect the past in favor of the future in his State of the Union speech he could rise back up to the populist expectations of the voters who put him into office...EXCEPT...Obama's problem is, he was really elected by the biggest voter of them all, the Corporations. Their votes and their contributing hundreds of billions of dollars to the largest spending campaign in the history of presidential elections in this country are what really put Barack Obama in office--you comprehend? He can't admit that in his speeches but that's what has him shackled--in bondage--as our first Black President. How easy is it to figure out from this what President Obama's going to say in his State of the Union message.

Do I have to parody it? Hell no. Just think this way. Whatever way you are hoping he will go in this speech, he will go the reverse of that way. Dig? That's what backwards thinking is. He knows we're right! Obama's no fool like Bush was. Obama was no C-minus student. He was certainly no C-minus Black lawyer. The only place for a C-minis Black lawyer is on the Supreme Court of Fools, i.e., Clarence "Long Dong" Thomas, Pappy Bush's choice as his Black replacement of Thurgood Marshall.

I try to reminisce, but what does it get me? It just leaves me as frustrated, angry, and hopeless as Michael Moore is. I can't ignore it. I try. When I'm not writing on this post I'm not at all concerned about what's going on outside my world--that's the way I was the day the Saudi-Arabians brought down the two tallest buildings on the Manhattan skyline--tacky, but you wouldn't think they'd tumble down so easily--not with 20th-Century architectural engineering skills that for instance allowed Frank Lloyd Wright's Maya-temple-style Imperial Hotel in Japan to be one of the only structures left standing after an 8.0 scale earthquake hit Tokyo in 1923. [Yes, the hotel did sustain damage during the earthquake--its middle sagged and some floors buckled, but as a whole structure it stayed upright. Wright later admitted that the big problem the hotel endured during that earthquake was foundational. Wright had originally intended to float the hotel on the ancient muds on which it sat--"like a battleship," as Wright put it--though that wasn't the way it ended up.]

PS: nice to see thewomantrumpetplayer commenting again. She's a brilliant one. And we praise the brilliant ones!

for The Daily Gothamite Growler

Filler Fact: With the death yesterday of actor Pernell Roberts (pancreatic cancer--WATCH OUT, folks, the BIG C is out to get you--you should be more afraid of the Big C than the phony Osama bin Laden tapes that always surface after a big Red Alert from our Office of Homeland Dopey Security!)--anyway, back to our story: with the death of Pernell Roberts, we are sorry to report that now all of the Cartwrights are dead. First Ben, then Hoss, then Little Joe, and now Adam.

Pernell Roberts was a weird bird. A Gawjah boy who made his acting debut in New York City as a Shakesperian actor. Pernell showed up at the Selma, Alabama, Civil Rights March. Was active in talking the studios into not using Whites to play Black characters--duh, of course, why wouldn't you use a Black to play a Black--oh, we forgot, RACISM in Hollywood. Pernell quit "Bonanza" after six seasons because as he put it, he just didn't feel right playing an Eastern-born, well-educated character who referred to his father as "Pa." So he quit "Bonanza" and went back to stage acting. Raise a glass to the departure from the mortal coil of old Pernell Elvin Roberts!


Language said...

Man, you could make a great book out of the stuff you've written about NYC here; it would be right up there with Henry Miller on Paris. Send me the MS and I'll do light copyediting (don't worry, I won't mess with your inimitable style) and factchecking for free. (Frinstance, the street name was changed to Avenue of the Americas in 1945 by La Guardia -- nothing to do with the Fair.)

Marybeth said...

Thanks for the compliment, sweet thing. I love you too. -twtp