East Village

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org & Knatz.com / Personal / Stories / pk by Age / Draft Loom Limbo / (thru grad school)
@ K. 2003 11 25

1960s

My personal stories menu organizes things mainly chronologically (Kid, Teen)) or by theme (Skiing, Fishing). Typical enough, right? It’s just occurring to me that an interesting perspective could be had by modeling lives geographically. I wrote a paper in grad school that wowed the professor on the symbolic significance of compass directions in Milton’s Paradise Lost. (Maybe the professor hadn’t read much Leslie Fiedler who explains all that kind of thing as standard.) (That consciousness, nowhere more evident than in Huck Finn, prepped me for reading Faulkner: the shoeless pregnant gal’s journey west, just behind her child’s father’s progress with the timber company in Light in August: civilization: overpopulation following deforestation. (Jared Diamond trumps all of us with his east-west history of the world, Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Man trickled north out of Africa, but raced east and west through Eurasia once womankind discovered agriculture. We grew wheat in the Shatt al Arab and the next thing you know the Jews wanted beach front property on the Mediterranean. We kind of stuck at the British Isles to the west and the Japans to the east until Columbus lucked onto the New World: lucky for the invaders; unlucky for everything else. By Faulkner’s Civil War times, we were destroying everything like locusts.

Gangs of New York shows the same time period more northward: same time period when my grandparents, both paternal and maternal, came in through New York. Fresh out of the army and just starting graduate school full time, I, pk, grabbed a dinky apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It was called the Garden of Eden. It even had a mural of the Temptation (which I’ve already elsewhere stated that I later learned had been painted by my later-friend, artist, and patron Gatja Rothe!). (Fiedler, had I known you then, I should have sent you a postcard the same day!)

My father quipped on how proud my grandparents had been to move from the lower east side out to Brooklyn, how proud they had been that he, my father had then moved to the open spaces of Jamaica, Queens, how proud he had been to then move from a tightening Jamaica to a wide-open Nassau County … and here, he grieved, I’d regressed back to the lower east side!

I remember how big the house we’d left on Hillside Avenue (Jamaica) had been, how huge the yard. The last time I was on Hillside Avenue I tried to guess where it might have been (never having knows cross-street names at age three). The only thing open about Hillside Avenue then would have been the cut you’d get from all the broken glass.

1963 or so my girl friend’s sister (through whom I’d met my girl friend) was paling around with some middle aged commie alcoholic named Lev. Lev hadn’t come to Marxism: he’d been raised Marxist! (and atheist) from the cradle, a missionary-commie-atheist: an atheist crusader. Always broke, seldom employed, an amazing pussy hound for a really ugly guy with a Falstaff belly, Lev would crack everybody up by telling the West End bartender, “Just wring the bar rag out into a glass.” Lev came into some luck by getting wrecked but not killed by an insured driver. Lev walks into the Old Reliable Bar on East 3rd between Avenues B and C, lights up the livid new scars all over his face, produces his lawyer’s statement of his expectations, and suddenly Lev has credit: a tab good for years. The Old Reliable can sponsor his drinking himself to death via a lien on his estate.

If the visitor has already seen some of the pk-in-New-York stories that have been here the longest, you know that I’d been a west-Village man through college. Indeed, you can’t get further west than my beloved Whitehorse Tavern without wetting yourself in the Hudson River. Actually, just tracing pk around Manhattan from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s could source a mythology: West 52nd Street with its jazz clubs, West 53rd and MOMA … then Morningside Heights and Columbia … then the Village: from Macdougal Street, Bleeker Street, over to Hudson Street, Bethune Square, Sheridan Square … In the army I shuttled from Morningside Heights to the Battery and Whitehall Street. Graduate School was old turf: NYU is right on Washington Square.

Washington Square
thanx urban75

Fifth Avenue butts up against Washington Square at its south end.

The first time I’d gone to the lower east side, 1958 or so, I’d lucked out: I met my beloved Jackie at a party in a loft nearly under the Manhattan Bridge. But my other visits nearly made me sick. I let a guy talk me into toking on his reefer on the lower east side. Yich. People who had apartments in the Village tended to have cute little potted plants; people who tended to prefer the East Village, or, God forbid, Chamber Street lofts (lofts that would later become SOHO, TriBecca) must have studied behavioral psych at Columbia, because everything there looked like a rat’s nest. But there were lots of such people. They thought rats’ nests were great.

So it shouldn’t have surprised me, the kind of life I found through the Old Reliable.

One difference was huge. I was going to NYU; but my social ties were still all uptown, Columbia-associated. Through the Old Reliable I met very different types. It was far more NYU, Cooper Union, this and that art school down there. Over in the White Horse it was all intellectuals bumping up against British seamen (more Celtic than English: Welshmen, Scots, some Irish …) In the Old Reliable it was lunatic artists bumping up against street cleaners, whores, welfare people … The Whitehorse was pretty robustly heterosexual. The Old Reliable was bisexual, bi- or tri-racial gang bangers.

You want to see the difference? See the movie, Basquiat. That‘s the lower east side: Basquiat slept in a cardboard box in Thompson Square Park. In Pollack you’re sort of midway: the Cedar Bar. The Cedar is actual Village, but near 5th Avenue, which splits Manhattan east and west: alcoholic artists with just as much business eastward as westward. In the Whitehorse, the seamen were from Glasgow: and Hudson Street was as far into North America as they got (one block).

In the Whitehorse you were either slumming with a bosun, singing with an Irishman, or intellectualizing with a poet; in the Old Reliable you were most liable to be a black militant willing to get blown by a white conceptual artist. What Lev liked about it, why he even asked for a tab there, I don’t know, but Lev’s friends there appalled me. Imagine that you’re working on your doctoral thesis: you’ve noticed that Shakespeare’s sonnets are split between a Fair Love (male and aristocratic) and a Dark Lady (female and common), that a meta-oxymoron forms between those two poses, and further that the contrastive elements can be formally mapped against the central conflict of the late Middle Ages: that between Authority and Experience. The poet loves the rich aristocrat with a love that’s all theory, all words: very orthodox; and both the aristocrat and the poet love (actually make love to, have actual orgasms) the dark woman: so common she is that she gives them both the clap! And here you are wasting time listening to a homosexual artist discussing with a bisexual artist racial differences in the taste of shit: both discussants liking to rim as well as blow (but both like best to rim and blow black guys!) And while this discussion is taking place, the bi-sexual artist’s wife, a school teacher and mother of several, is likely to be taking three guys home to show them that all of her holes are open to men dedicated to rhetoric about violent revolution.

I’m not happy with this telling thus far, but hell, it’s a first draft. I’ll come back for more, maybe straighten out what precedes.

pk Quotes Sampler

pk Stories Social, Hierarchical
by Age by Theme by Others Institutional Stories
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About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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