Thursday, May 27, 2010

Living in New York City: Yelling Words

Foto by tgw, New York City, 2010
Old Yeller
I yell words. Yelled words. Yelled words being yelled. Yellow words to some perhaps. Yelled yellow words being continuously yelled. Yelling as if railing against something. Something coming. A change of life coming. Worse-than-death coming. I close my yelling eyes and yell back into my brain's eye. What can be worse than death? What's coming.

I write poetry on my off hours. When I'm not yelling words. If I were asked to read my poems, I wouldn't yell them out. I'd be more improvisational jazz in my reading of my own poetry.

A camel's squat...

That's a line of a poem I haven't written yet.

in boiled and boiling more sand...

Then the muse of Kipling sitting on my shoulder is whispering for me to abandoned this and go to that and finish it--except I don't call her the muse of Kipling though she is the same muse Kipling wrote about when he wrote about his inspirational muses. The same muse that tells me to yell about oppressions to all people no matter their skin color, race, religion, past history is the same muse that told Kipling Blacks (and I'm sure Kipling meant "woggies" (Indians, the real Indians) as a part of this burden, too) his British Empire was enslaving or paying slave wages to run their colonial plantations or to work as their constantly bowing and scraping servants were the White man's burden.

Poetry got me off onto Kipling. I never read Kipling. Not really. I did read his essay on the muses that sat on his shoulder and encouraged him to write. That's the Kipling I know so little about. I have read his poem "If," but that was because of Ernest Hemingway. Papa talking about the poem "If" that hung on the wall of his home growing up. This in a poem he is reading on an old Caedmon LP, reading his "Poem to Mary" he wrote while on a European battlefield in the midst of ducking a shelling of the hillside by the Germans, the hillside on which were encamped Patton's US Army forces who were advancing from the D-Day beaches of Normany through the countryside of that part of France on their way to Berlin.

Off on Kipling. I'm beginning to yell words again. At Kipling interrupting the NOW I was working on this post in.

How crazy am I? Not crazy at all. Like Henry Miller, I'm too sane to be crazy. Crazy people sometimes feel like dying rather than living. Not I. I love living. I love it in spite of the chemicals in the air of New York City. In spite of the paint fumes I smell coming from the building site one apartment away from my opened window with the fan sitting in it, NOW blowing a cooling fresh (fresh but still fetid) air in on me.

Yesterday, New York City was as hot as the holiest levels of Hell. The temperature got to 93.

I moved into Midtown Manhattan from New Jersey with my wife in March of 1970. It took me a month to adjust to living in this town. A month I spent trying to find myself by going out to Aqueduct Race Track and blowing money--or going to Yonkers Raceway and really dropping money on the standardbreds, the trotters. Trotting races being amazing to me in that these horses have to keep up a steady trot as fast as they can go for a mile--breaking into a run disqualifies them. Harness racing it's also called. Amazing. Jockeys riding in little carts called sulkies behind these tall horses. And I used to love going on a Walthers bus from Midtown Manhattan out to Yonkers Raceway on the border between the Bronx and Westchester County. Talking horse racing all the way out there with the horse bettors on the bus. Little Jewish guys. Always a couple of orthodox guys in their black outfits, probably rabbis among them. Little liver-spot foreheaded Chinese guys all busy jabbering amongst themselves going over the horses. "I'm gonna parlay these three horses in the perfecta, my man, what'd'ya think?" I asked a guy named Manny. "No, no, no, kid," Manny replies seriously, "not that 6 horse. Those outside horses seldom win. That 6 horse will come in last." And I would be defiant and bet my three horses in spite of Manny's warning and sure enough, the 6 horse did come in dead last and then Manny's advice hit me and then I learned to always pick winners from the first 4 horses--long shots from the outside horses if you so dare--though even doing this I still lost.

And then after a month of adjusting to living in Midtown Manhattan, my wife, already successfully employed, pleaded with me to start bringing in some bucks. To start looking for a job. And I started going to employment agencies. I started in May of '70, traispsing around Manhattan following leads from the employment agencies. With my background being in social work, of course these agencies began sending me to jobs of the social work nature.

It was a day in mid-May when an agency called me and said they had set up an appointment for me with the City's Youth Council Bureau, downtown in the City Hall area. I left our air-conditioned apartment and stepped out into street. In those days I had gotten used to NYC being the windiest place I'd ever lived. Ironic as hell since I grew up on the plains of West Texas where the winds blow stormy for weeks on end, though unlike New York City winds, they eventually subside and sometimes you can go months and months in West Texas in a still, drifting like, hot-as-Hell stretch of months. Dog days where humans pant like dogs to cool down inside as they gulp at nonexistent cooling air.

On this day in May of 1970, not only was it as usual windy--the winds whipping like bullwhips being lashed around the hi-rise buildings that walled in my neighborhood--but it was also noticeably and eventually shockingly as HOT as the lower parts of Hades. Yes. And this is ironic again: it is hot as the holiest parts of Hell on those West Texas plains, too...plenty of 99 and 100 degree days; yet, on this spring day in May 1970 in Midtown Manhattan, walking over to the BMT Subway station, I suddenly felt hotter than ever I remembered feeling hot in Texas. Yes, the heat that hit my face solid like a pie-in-the-face was breath-grabbing hot. A boiling-water-type steamy heat. Not the dry heat of West Texas. But they did have this kind of heat in Texas, down around Houston, in the below-sea-level swamp areas. This sultry heat.

By the time I got down to the City Hall area, I wide-eyedly noticed on a bank building's combo clock and temperature LED sign the time was 2 pm and the temperature was 93. It was never 93 in May in Texas. If I'd'a wanted to fry in Hell I'd'a stayed in Texas. I came to New York City to be cool.

When I got to my interview, it was even hotter than the lower depths of Hell in the Youth Council Bureau offices. They had no air-conditioning. They had all the windows opened. Several of the men, I saw no women, were sitting in their guinea teeshirts and fanning themselves with fans like you get at funeral homes on hot days. I was shown to the head honcho's office where the interview was to take place. I didn't think it possible but this guy's office was 10 times hotter than the reception and work area had been. And this guy was a creepy little hunched-back looking dude, wearing a suit and tie...and, and it didn't take long to notice, smelling like a wet mutt caught in his master's steam room or sauna. Stink. Jesus this son of a bitch stunk.

It was so hot, all these guys were telling me this was the hottest May they ever remembered--and they were all native New York Citians, too--the guy I would be working with was born and raised in Brooklyn. I met this man after Brother Smelly said it was too hot to continue interviewing me--so he took a look at my resume and he hired me without further adieu and then he took me over to meet this Brooklyn guy with whom I would be working. In fact, it was this guy's old neighborhood we'd be working together in as field officers. This guy swearing he'd never in his life-long days seen it this hot in May in New York City. It took me only a few seconds to notice this guy stunk to high heaven, too.

As I was deciding no way in hell I was gonna take this job, the head honcho came out of his office and said that Mayor Lindsay's office had closed down city offices for the day because of the heat. "Get the hell out of here!" he said as he waddled out the door, his briefcase in hand. Suddenly, I was alone in the office with this Brooklyn guy who was putting on his suit coat and hat and packing to leave. "Hey, man, we're splittin' this joint. You stayin'?" "Hell no," I said, coming out of my amazement at this whole affair and flying out the place with my new Brooklyn Field Office partner that I was damn certain in my head by the time we hit the street I was never going to see again.

Yesterday, May 26, here in NYC, the temperature hit 92 at one point. It hit that at round 2 pm, the same time I was in that Youth Council Bureau office back 40 years ago--1970 to today--HOLY MOLEY ROUNDER--this man-invented time is out of control. I say we slow down and go on earth time, sidereal time. Shortly after 2, it must have been at least 110 in my apartment. I have a huge bay window that opens on the south end of Manhattan Island. Yesterday at 2 pm the sun heading for the summer solstice was even with that window for several afternoon hours, shining directly into that magnifying window glass--in a matter of minutes I could have fried eggs on that window's sill.

Yelling words. Words attracting other words. Reminding themselves of their twins, their synonymic siblings, or their antonymic siblings, their bastard siblings. Bulldozing away twittered words. "WHO CARES?" is my twittered message. What's the fun of text messaging? Those are words. Those are not the words I yell and yet they are the words some people yell. Text Message novels now being written in text words, words that aren't words except they are words as words are symbols and text-messaging is semiotic as Hell....

Today it is nice. It is only going to hit a high of 72 today. That's a high I can revel in. Why, I can write all day long in a blitz in 72-degree weather. It's dropping off later to a low of 48! Did you hear me? From 93 yesterday to 48 tonight.

Words. Prolix. I always liked that word. My yelling these words I yell is prolix! I am prolixisized. Neologicized. And now I'm yelling words I'm inventing, though just inventing new forms of these already old new words. I've suffix-i-cated them and they are yelling for air.

for The Daily Growler


A New York City Poem:


by Maxwell Bodenheim

With sardonic futility
The multi-coloured crowd,
Hurried by fervent sensuality,
Flees from something carried on its back.
Endlessly subdued, a sound
Pours up from the crowd,
Like some one ever gasping for breath
to utter releasing words.
Through the artificial valley
Made by gaudy evasions,
The stifled crowd files up and down,
Stabbing thought with rapid noises.
Women strutting dulcetly,
Embroider their unappeased hungers,
And men stumble toward a flitting opiate.
Sometimes a moment breaks apart
And one can hear the knuckles
Of children rapping on towering doors:
Rapping on the highway
Where civilization parades
Its frozen amiabilities!


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