Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Personal / Stories / pk by Age / College Years /
My friend and I were walking on Macdougal Street in the Village when Alan overheard some guy raging about how a couple of guys had let him down. He was off to Mexico and they were supposed to gallery-sit for him and now they’d finked out. The guy is dressed Mexican and he standing in front of a little shop with Mexican stuff all over the place. Sandals, blankets … and some Pre-Columbian pottery. Alan grabs me and makes sure I hear him ask the guy to repeat his predicament. Within five minutes we’d agreed to run the Si Como No for the guy for the summer while he went down to Mexico to replenish his inventory.
The guy explained that he could just walk around the pyramids and pick up objects d’art off the ground. Tourists flew off with Mexico’s treasures all the time: openly. Highly illegal now; perfectly legal and open then. The guy looked familiar to us. Sure enough, soon after he’d taxied to the airport, we realized why. The shop keeper had had his picture in a recent Esquire magazine, playing his (Mexican) guitar at Washington Square. Full page, full color. I have a feeling his name was Alan too. Alan made us promise to take care of his cats: one a Russian Blue, the other a black Manx. Oh, and could we please not mind if his “friend” came and went. He has his own key. He stays out of the way. Once we got a load of the friend, he was something. Tall, black, bald (shaved) … hairless everywhere (shaved or depilated everywhere). To each his own.
The idea appeals to me instantly. Without some such obligation, I was all too likely to waste my summer school time and tuition drinking in the Whitehorse. This would keep me off the streets, maybe make me some money instead of me spending it. We hoped we wouldn’t be too successful. I had to read and read and read: for an American novel course: taught by Quentin Anderson, Sherwood’s son.
Elsewhere here I tell of my first wonderful love: Jackie and I were first in each others arms in the Si Como No.
The Cat: & the Neighbors
One afternoon that summer, late in the day, I emerge from the Si Como No. The store was set down a few feet below sidewalk level. There was a stairs: go down a few steps. Next door, the store front business went up a few steps: to the Caricature Coffee House. (The space next to that was empty but would soon become the famous Gas Light Café.
I step up onto Macdougal Street. I barely saw the guy, tee shirt, strapping, as he stepped into me: “Son of a bitch.” Wham! Uppercut. Full under my jaw. Lifted me midair all the way up the flight of steps and sprawling heels over head into the Caricature Coffee House. I’d flown. I’d landed. I wasn’t hurt: just surprised. I pick myself up. The guy has gone. Marched straight up the stairs on the other side of the Si Como No: into the brownstone that our “gallery” was the basement of. Alan comes rushing out onto the street. “What was that? What happened?”
“I don’t know. Guy hit me. Built like a tank. Hardly bigger than a fire hydrant but his punch lifted me off my feet and knocked me clear into the coffee house.” We went back inside, Alan brushing me off, soothing me.
Alan had a theory. I bet he was right. The Village is frequented by weirdoes: hippies, beatniks, students, queers, jazz lovers, folk artists, intellectuals, pot smokers … and … the longtime residents and working class Italians. They don’t approve of the circus they live amid. They have their San Genaro Festival. The culture is Sicilian. Catholic. Conservative. OK, that I know. Alan reminds me anyway. “So you probably got hit because of Susie,” he says.
“Susie?” I ask.
“Yeah, Susie. She’s in the loony bin at Stockbridge. With Greg. They’re out for a few days. They visited me this afternoon. I brought them here. The cats are making free with Susie’s handbag, poking their heads into it, sniffing this and that.
“Suddenly Susie shrieks
The cat ate my diaphragm.’
The guy upstairs yells down the air way that he’s gonna get us. She leaves. You arrive. You step back out and right into the fist of the guy from upstairs.”
Had to be.
I’ve been hit hard a couple of times. I know that it’s never hurt at the time. But man, oh, man, can it hurt later. But that time it didn’t hurt later either. No loose teeth. No bruises. Just a free ride through the air.
We sure didn’t sell much that summer. But we did cover expenses. I remember selling a couple of Pre-Columbia sculptures to a guy from Brentano’s uptown. He paid me $40 each for a couple of clay figures. He’d take them uptown and sell them for $80. Our rent was $20 a month. We owed Alan 50% of what we grossed in sales. So we owed Alan $40 for two months rent, another $40 for the two sculptures, $4 for an $8 pair of sandals our friend Peter bought … and another $20 for a Toltec sculpture I kept for myself.
That ceramic was female: with funny little teeny tiny tits: and a wide open vagina: merely a slit in the hollow ceramic. I kept her on my dresser in the dorm the following semester. One day I came in and the sculpture was neatly laid on the dresser in several pieces. She could not have broken so that the pieces fell into that position. So. Marie the maid. I wonder if Columbia University has an idea that it hired maids who destroyed irreplaceable ethnic artifacts: artifacts from sovereign countries the US has cultural alliances with! Do you have any idea what a Pre-Columbia piece started selling for as soon as Mexico decided to close the door on tourists just riffling the pyramids? A basketball star could spend all of his multi-million bonus money and not get much.
2012 03 15 I just remembered a story I’ve never before told from that summer: Usually Alan and I took turns manning the shop, but one evening we were both in the gallery. A couple came in. We showed them the pre-Colombian artifacts: $40 retail. We showed them the sarapes, the ponchos, the huaraches … They didn’t buy, but they didn’t leave. Finally they indicated what they wanted: they wanted Alan and me to come back to New Jersey with them, to come to their home, to be served champagne, caviar, whatever we wanted … and to party in front of them!
They thought we were fags! They wanted to watch us fuck!
No matter what we told them, they wouldn’t believe that we were heterosexual. If they had invited us back so the husband could watch as Alan and I took turns making love to his wife, that might have tempted us a little bit. Actually, I still would have refused, and I suspect Alan would have too.
Poor bastard: his wife had to pimp for his perversion.
@ K. 2002 11 13