/ College Stories /
I entered Columbia in September 1956, Columbia College class of 1960. We had bull sessions in the dorm, classes in Hamilton Hall, physics in Pupin Hall, chemistry in Havermeyer. Freshman week there were beer parties in a choice of dorm; but 24/7, then and now, there was the West End Tavern on Broadway and 113th Street. (Not quite 24/7: the West End and all other bars closed at 4 AM, reopened at 7 AM, the floor mopped.) I spent more time there than in the library, eventually I spent more time there than in classes. I wasn’t the only one. You hear of Jack Karouac going to Columbia, football: I bet he spent more time in the West End than he ever spent in class: long after he’d left college too. In fact it was in the West End that I met and became friends with one of his wives, Loretta: tallish, long-thighed girl. (note below)
When I entered Columbia I was far from conventional in my beliefs. I didn’t trust the schools an inch. I didn’t trust Columbia much further. But I still swallowed plenty of the standard piffle of the modern world: I knew we were dishonest, not too bright; but I was far from seeing how totally dishonest and stupid we were. For instance: when guys first came up to me in the West End and asked how I’d like to go down to Cuba, go into the mountains, join the guerrillas: I’d have a peso in my pocket that was mine, not owed to the Columbia bursar, I’d have all the gange I wanted to smoke … pussy galore … (Funny, I was offered all the Cuban pussy I could want on another occasion, 1963, in the army! by Cubans! who liked me.)
The Cuban freedom fighters would hit on me occasionally, never pressed anything: for those not interested they’d move on. Somewhere around then, from them, I heard of Fidel Castro for the first time. What? 1958? 59?
I drank my beer, heard them, drank some more beer. I did not scoff, “Free Cuba? You’ve got to be kidding: Cuba will never have the option of being free.” What Cuba will be will be strictly the option of the US: we’ve had battleships, the Maine, up their ass, since the revolution of Haiti, 1791 – 1804. Black men? free? that will never be allowed.
Well, a couple of year passed. Castro climbed higher. Then he announces he’s a communist! Jeez, he must really want a missile up his ass. But he was being goaded by the Soviet. Khrushchev. I’m reminded of the V. S. Naipaul novel where slaves in Africa dangle the master’s son in front of some toughs so he’ll have to fight, ready to snatch him away before he can get hurt. The kid is four foot nine, the slaves are six foot three or so, the kid’s combatants are four foot ten … If we had ever had real wars there wouldn’t be any human population. A Napoleon will use new weapons to kill 10% of a population, make a point: thereafter the population (which will grow right back) will be docile slaves for ever: like paying taxes: the fed doesn’t have to jail more than one or two greasers for the majority to kowtow. (Racist Note)
You want a terrific portrait of the young Fidel Castro in Cuba, try Hunter’s Havanah. You want a largely true portrait of Cuba itself? in the 1950s? See the Godfather movies: gambling, booze, whores.
Freedom? I don’t know how Zulus would style a West they dominated, or Monguls; but I guarantee you: freedom and white rule are incompatible.
Castro Is Dead!
2016 11 27 How did he live to be 90?
When I first heard of Castro everybody knew about Stalin, how he practiced mass murder, democide, left and right. People believed that Castro thought of Communism as an idea: a dreamer, naive but noble, dirty hands, for a good purpose.
My uncle was a loud obnoxious Stalinist Communist: did people think he was an idealist? or had his ideals been so smashed that he pursued Communism as an act of ugliness, pain, hatred, destruction, evil?
When I was a young man I sympathized with the idealism mask. No longer. They support coercion? They’re no better than us. Never mind the ideals, focus on their actions.
Mass murder? I can think symbathetically about killing millions of people, tens of millions of people. How about hundreds of millions? If we could empty the earth before the totally poison everything, that would be good, not bad. Or it would mix on the side of good. Seems to me.
His little buddy though makes me sick: Che, running about dreaming of nuclear holocaust.
In 1963 the US Army was drafting Cuban citizens in preparation for an invasion of Cuba. My job, a draftee, was to help the Cuban volunteers for conscription (a nice oxymoron) fill out the US Army forms. They didn’t speak Engish, I knew not a dozen words of Spanish, but we made do, the FBI looking over our shoulders as we lied and lied.
“Do you know any Communists?” the form asked. Oh, No, no, would reply the Cubans! Denial was the “right” answer however far it was from a true answer. Not know any communists? The whole of Cuba was Communist! No Cuban was allowed not to be a Communist. And these guys had been “freedom” fighters.
I didn’t believe the recruiters in 1958, but I didn’t specifically disbelieve them either: I was in college, I wasn’t joining any revolutions. Not knowingly, not then. PS: “college” was not a free choice either: meet my mother, meet my friends’ mothers and fathers. Kindergarten hadn’t been a free choice either.
Anyway: the Cubans proved to know a little more English that they’d admitted at first, I was picking up Spanish like a house afire. On the one hand were the Cuban guys, asking to be equipped to invade; then there came a bevy of Puerto Rican WAC beauties, to help with the Spanish. It was a riot: the Cubans insulted the Puerto Rican girls without restraint, the girls wept and fled: but not without the most beautiful of them getting her hand into my shorts a couple of times: and her bosom in my mouth. (What I really wanted most at the time was for her to take her damn girdle off, and leave it off. Carmen had the most wonderful ass: like Stacey Dash, like Beyonce: or would have if she only let is show, let it giggle, naturally.)
But: the Cubans liked me. One guy said When this is over, when my family can go back and reclaim our home, our land, our restaurant, you come visit. My seester, she fuck you.
Was the sister free?
A Continuum of Morons
Anyway, realize one thing above all: in 1958 the guerrillas were inviting me to join them. And they weren’t talking about politics either: their emphasis was on fucking in the mountains, and on dope: smoke, and more smoke. In 1963 there was no freedom involved in my interviewing Cubans: they wanted to be drafted, I had already been drafted. The army didn’t ask my permission. Fifty-five years ago, I wrote things to the army, to the draft board, that they obviously didn’t care to understand then, and I see no evidence they’re capable of understanding now. Pseudo-people, a continuum of morons. I did though like some of those Cubans. And I sure loved a couple of the Puerto Rican WACs! (Not that that interfered with how much I loved my English beauty, later my wife and mother of our son.
It was Loretta, not Karouac, who claimed that she was Jack’s “wife”. But: the West End was full of people who knew both of them and I never heard Loretta’s claim contradicted.
Loretta mostly sat at a table full of dykes who seemed to get a kick out of her public heterosexuality.
One night around 1958 there was a reading by some beat poets in McMillin Theater. Rumor had it that Karouac would come that evening to the West End. Myron and I heard ten minutes of Orlovsky and Corso, then headed for a beer. Orlovsky and Corso soon followed, but I never did see Jack. Karouac never showed at half the coffee houses in the Village that advertised he’d read, specified a date and time, but he wouldn’t show.
One night 1959ish I was coming home, West 112th Street, from an evening in the Village, working my gallery, the Si Como No, then a date with the first woman I ever really fell in love with, Jackie, black girl, soo cute, and I stopped at the West End for a beer, then two. Loretta told me she was without a place to stay that night, could she crash at my place. You’ll have to put up with my bed and me in it, I said. Sure, she said, and off we went. I don’t know what she expected, but here’s what happened: as I explained to her: Jackie was wearing a a great looking dress, beige, but rough textured, like burlap. On the gallery couch in the back room, the door locked, the lights out, I got to humping her and was getting carried away before I realized the price I was paying for my polite caution: my dick was rubbed all raw!
Nothing further is going to happen to Pierre tonight beyond a cold creme bath. Loretta, whatever she had expected, understood. She thought I was funny.
Jackie didn’t get one stroke inside her that night but boy, did we make up for it on nights shortly to follow.
Castro the Commie
2016 11 28 I was aware of the guerrillas in the mountains of Cuba from an early date as revolutionaries. Followed suit with Castro, maybe Che too. The commie part came later, when it came it came with a vengeance. I guess the soviet did some job selling him. Or I just didn’t know more than a fraction of what I seemed to know: that’s too too true of so much, we need to take each other and ourselves with a grain or two of salt.
I sympathized with the revolutionary side of things then and now. It’s the blow everything up, kill everyone, side of the argument I hate, context, oppose. No coercion.
Those who are willing to coerce seem always to win; but in that case winning is Wrong! Good results of action cannot be know in this world. Do right, blink, die.
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