BROOKLYN BOOKS #5

I love reading good books – especially good books set in New York. I’m guessing you do to or you wouldn’t be here. And, I’m guessing that, like me, you love discovering book stores built over basements bursting with used books and then hunting and coughing your way through the dusty stacks.

I even have a recurring dream of descending into an imagined basement in a Manhattan slum and finding the used book store of my dreams. (Literally of my dreams.) For years, I’ve been returning to this seemingly limitless catacomb.   

The great joy of being a book hunter is stumbling over a new author, subject or world. Here are some of my most treasured discoveries – 

Psychic Dictatorship in America 

by Gerald B. Bryan (1940)

Guy and Edna Ballard – the Bonnie & Clyde of the Occult
  • An insider’s exposé of The Mighty I Am. This spiritualist cult was popular in the 1930s and is still around. The money-mad Ballards gave birth to many imitators and set the template for the entire New Age movement complete with fairies, fruitcakes and frauds. On orders from the Ascended Masters, adherents murdered their pets. No foolin’.

Instantaneous Personal Magnetism 

by Edmund Shaftesbury (1933) 

“Look into my eyes, stop fidgeting and remove your wet clothes… ”
  • Tips published by the International Magnetism Club based in Manchester, England. Chock full of lifesaving information on nerve tensing, magnetic foods, wet clothes, thin shoes and fidgets. Hey, these guys were from Manchester and that’s good enough for me. Betcha they were Masons, too.

Adventures with Vending Machines

by Ray Burkett (1967)

Vending sun tans in the 1940s.
And, people doubt that man landed on the moon.
  • The “straight skinny” from one-who-knows on how to make millions stocking gumball machines in garages and paperback book racks in drug stores. With special chapters on, condom vending machines, pay toilets, the salted-in-the-shell peanut racket and the ever-fraught subject of vending in negro locations.  

Analism Among the Poor 

by Preston Harriman (1970)

Part of Harriman’s multi-volume indictment of class struggle and lube.
  • Harriman’s oeuvre includes: Analism Among the Poor, Analism Among the Rich, Anal Girl, From Adultery to Analism and Oral Aunts. (Preston was either hungry for a change of pace, or had a very friendly aunt.) Sadly, I’ve found only the one work by Harriman but I live in hope. Still, I’m not sure I’d shake his hand at a book signing.
And you thought I was kidding!

But what does all this have to do with Joe the Engineer, I hear you cry. This –

You know how it is – your moving down the used book aisle, head tilted sideways, giving yourself scoliosis, scanning the book spines when a title catches your interest. You never heard of the author. The cover and blurbs intrigue you. You read the first sentence and next thing you know the clerk is telling you the store is closing. You blow the mildew from your lungs, brush the cobwebs from your clothes and head up to the cashier clutching gold-in-print. 

That’s how I found Joe the Engineer by Chuck Wachtel (1983). I stumbled over it in the used book basement of the original Sam Weller’s in Salt Lake City. I found Francine Prose, David Markson, Charles Portis, Sam Lypsyte and Tom Perrotta in similar basements around the world. (They haven’t written any “Brooklyn” books so I’m not featuring them on this blog. But, if you are a fan of dazzling prose, do yourself a favor and read them. Trust me. Just do it.) 

Anyone who has read my memoir Boy Outa Brooklyn will know that my opinion of the neighboring Borough of Queens is not high. Since Wachtel’s book is set in that hellhole, it’s not a “Brooklyn” book. But, since I grew up surrounded by “Joe the Engineers” and might have been one myself, and since it validates everything I’ve written about Queens and since it is so damn good and since this is my blog and I can do whatever I wanna do – I’m gonna do you a favor by making it my Brooklyn Book # 5. (So there.)

Joe the Engineer is quite simply one of the truest and most moving novels of working-class life ever written. I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

Chuck the Wachtel

Joe is a Vietnam vet stuck in a dead-end job reading meters in Queens basements and living in Richmond Hill – the same dead-end Queens neighborhood where he grew up.

Joe’s Richmond Hill, Queens is the evil twin my South Brooklyn.

Joe is saddled with half-assed intelligence and half-assed dreams. And, Wachtel does a masterful job of capturing the mind of a person who isn’t fully conscious of the “how and why” of his miserable state but senses that something is wrong somewhere. The working class is full of such “canaries in a coal mine.” The media loves to mock them when they are inarticulate in their rage and confusion but I’ve always heard them loud and clear.  

I’ve heard them because I am one of them. My antenna has always been finely attuned to pick up snide condescension from the elites. (That’s what cost Hillary Clinton the election. White workers ain’t dumb ya know.) So, I appreciated how “working-class Wachtel” applied his writer’s eye to our shared caste without snobbery or sentimentality. 

I especially enjoyed listening to Joe’s thoughts as he read his customer’s lives while reading their basement meters. I saw him as a blue-collar Howard Carter mining the minutiae of ancient Egyptian life from hieroglyphs though in Joe’s case it is from ancient wall calendars and broken toys.

In one exquisitely painful passage, the unhappily married Joe has a disastrous one-night-stand with a supermarket checkout girl.
 

I found a 1983 radio interview with Wachtel – the year Joe was published. I was pleased but not surprised to learn that one of Chuck’s literary models was Hubert Selby Jr. whose Last Exit to Brooklyn is one of my Brooklyn Books. I was less pleased and surprised that Wachtel sounded prissy and academic. And when he blithely stated that America was a “mulatto” nation, my antenna started twitching. “Mulatto” is code for White genocide. It’s shorthand for “Death to Joe the Engineer.”

Happily, in 2020, “mulatto” is still not the norm in America and race-mixing is frowned upon by the vast majority of all races. (Don’t believe me? Listen to minority talk radio.) And, it was certainly not the rule fifty years ago despite Wachtel’s best wishes. However, due to the subversive work of those condescending elites (whom Wachtel chastised) and their fellow-travellers like, ironically, Chuck Wachtel himself, the Joe the Engineers of Richmond Hill and the world are being replaced. 

Joe’s parents circa 1950
The couple who bought Joe’s parent’s house.
Ya think they have racial consciousness?

Yes, the solidly White working-class Richmond Hill, Queens to which Joe returned after being used as cannon fodder in Viet Nam is now not open to his kind. For Richmond Hill, Queens is now known as Little India-Guyana-Trinidad and Tobago.     

Richmond Hill circa 2050.
Who needs water meters when there’s no water?

I eagerly sought out and read Wachtel’s other works which include poetry but, for me, Chuck is a one-hit-wonder. Still, as with those other liberal half-wits I’ve reviewed, Alfred Kazin and Pete Hamill, I’m gonna cut Chuck Wachtel some slack coz he wrote a beauty.  Do yourself a favor – read it!

There seems to be a movie in the works but I fear they’ll kill the book with politically correct crap. Betcha the supermarket check out girl is Black or Muslim. And, probably cast with Chuck’s approval. Never mind –  “I hereby pronounce Joe the Engineer an honorary Brooklyn Boy.”

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Available as an eBook here
and as a paperback and eBook from
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk

Fear Stalks the Woods

Red deer in Richmond Park, London.
Richmond Park, London… Central Park, eat your heart out!

London has many wonderful parks; some so large they are home to herds of cattle and deer! The parks in my ‘hood were royal hunting grounds in medieval London and are still surprisingly woodsy. For many years, I’ve used them for occasional long walks but, during lockdown, I’ve made them my daily haunts. 

English medieval hunting tapestry.
My ‘hood in days of olde.

“Haunts” is the perfect word because, as the lockdown continues and my boredom and anxiety deepen, I am not so much walking as haunting the same well-trodden paths day after day. And, I encounter familiar masked faces doing the same. We are so many woodland ghosts sharing glances of grim determination and forced friendliness as we carefully pass each other. Actually, I let them carefully pass me. I plow ahead as in normal times – refusing to make flamboyant gestures of “giving way” or to take drastic action to avoid breaking the two-meter social-distancing rule.

Plague doctor with scythe.
I shudder as my fellow citizens scurry into thick brambles
to avoid coming anywhere near me.
The Grim Reaper over a skeleton.
I shudder as parents grab their children out of the path of the approaching leper. 
Plague doctor with beaked mask.
I shudder as women grab their dogs into their arms
lest the animal approach the gloveless scofflaw.
Illustration: The Masque of the Red Death
I shudder as masked and gloved couples hide behind a tree
until the crazy, maskless man passes.
Clayton Moore as The Land Ranger.
Who was that maskless man?

It’s the terror in their eyes that makes me shudder and makes me furious. They are my enemies – members of the 84% of the British public that want this insane lockdown to continue.

George Carlin quote on stupid people in groups.

Of course, there are many in that number easily dismissed as low I.Q. slugs quite happy to lay about with the state bracing them up. (Uh… better make that the taxpayer doing the bracing-up.) And, hey, there might be some otherwise intelligent folk in the 84% who are enjoying the forced curtailment of their liberty. (Maybe they hated going into the office. Or, love playing with their kids.)

Joseph Sobran quote on democracy.

But, I can see in the eyes of my fellow woodland ghosts that they are just gutless wonders who fear. Fear the state. Fear their neighbors. Fear the future. Fear death. Fear life.  

Movie frame from The Ministry of Fear

They are the obedient wage slaves, consumers and pawns coveted by technocratic dictators who plot our dystopian future on their desktops and slide rules.  

It’s the timid couples I pass in the woods who make me angriest. I imagine their hushed, fervent pillow-talk plans to clap even louder next Thursday night for the NHS and start a collection for the rapeugees who land daily on Britain’s beaches from the Calais jungle. Invariably, these couples are not only masked but masked to the max. No cheap paper masks or basic medical face coverings for them. No. They wear space-age contraptions with multiple fail-safe straps and vents. In the middle of the woods!

Vintage deep sea diver in bell hood.
My neighbors gone A-Maying,

I guess they missed the memo that no two “experts” can agree if masks are even worthwhile. And, the “experts” to whom they grovel have admitted that they invented the two-meter rule with no scientific backing. And, those same “experts” say that Covid-19 droplets don’t travel or live in air for as long as they had claimed. And, the virus doesn’t survive on surfaces for as long as they had warned either. 

Remember all those medical horror-hype stories of Covid-19 droplets traveling 22 feet and living longer than Methuselah? Well, you can forget that. Oh, this just in, now the “experts” say that you don’t have to wipe down your groceries after all.  

Dr. Ted - Head of the WHO
I’m tellin’ ya, the virus was this big, No foolin.

In 1961, the late, great baseball manager Casey Stengel was fired by the mighty New York Yankees and immediately hired by the lowly New York Mets. One day he looked down the Mets dugout bench and asked, “Can’t anyone here play this game?” 

I’d like to ask that of all the “experts” who have clogged the airwaves and newspaper columns for months – all those fusty-musty eggheads carefully cultivating their images and soundbites as they salivate over a book deal and regular pundit spot on MSNBC. 

Doctor wearing light reflector.
Hey, who owns the media, anyway? Would they have a stake in promoting and prolonging the panic-demic? Just a thought.

But, I’m glad to say that some genuine scientists are asking (as I have) whether the astonishingly wrong predictions made by the “experts” could have been by accident. And, if the mistakes were deliberate, what is their agenda?  

Cartoon man scratching head with question marks.

Maybe they felt that to get the attention of a dumbed-down population (Dumbed-down by them) they had to push the worst-case scenario. 

Maybe they felt that to get the attention of polyglot, multi-racial countries (Made so by them) they had to push the worst-case scenario. 

Maybe, however disastrous the result of their strategy, they had our best interests at heart. (What was that about good intentions?) 

But, how ’bout this?

Maybe this pandemic:  

  • born in a wet market or not
  • created and released from a lab or not
  • on purpose or not
  • a bio-attack on China and Iran that backfired or not

is now being manipulated by the technocratic elites to their own ends. 

Cartoon of shocked dog

It’s anyone’s guess what their end game is but when Warren “Billionaire” Buffett drops his airline stocks, this “anyone” suspects that restrictions on international travel will be one outcome.

And, as the UK starts testing its new Covid-19 tracking App, restrictions on domestic travel will be another outcome.   

Chew on this… if you refuse to comply with the tracking App you could be denied travel, health care, pension, education, housing and every other aspect of life controlled by the “benevolent” state. Last time I checked, Big Brother can give with one hand…

Welp… this is one ghost who plans to resist all technocratic incursions into his life. But, I’ll betcha my woodland friends comply in a heartbeat. And, I expect a knock on the door after one of those not-so friendly ghosts drops a dime on my ass.

Peter Lorre in M by Fritz Lange.

So, the next time you visit the woods in my ‘hood don’t be surprised if you find me hanging around. 

Lynched Black man.

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Available as an eBook here
and as an eBook and paper back from
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk

Covid-19 THIS!

Silhouette of male skull filled with three question marks.

I’ve got some questions. You do, too. We all do. 

  • How the fuck did we get here? 
  • How have we allowed a pack of third-rate politicians and unelected eggheads, bureaucrats, careerists and apparatchiks take control of our world? 
  • Our lives? 
  • Our future?  
A pile of typed question marks on textured white paper.

Who died and left them boss?

Welp… as of today 218,000 have died from Covid 19. Possibly. Maybe. We’re pretty sure. That’s our guesstimate. Ballpark figure. Some with. Some suspected. But, yeah, 218K. That’s the body count. There or thereabouts. 

Now, if you ask us about diarrhea… 1.5 million die annually from that. No foolin’. 1.5 million. Annually. From diarrhea. You can take that to the bank.

As long as we’re talkin’ numbers here… 

The Flu pandemic of 1918-19 killed 20 – 100 million.  

  • More than died in WW1 
  • More than died from the Black Death 

The Flu of 1957 killed 1.1 million 

The Flu of 1968 killed 1 million  

In an average year the flu kills 300 – 650,000 

In the 1918-19 flu pandemic the sick were quarantined. Otherwise, life went on. And, there were no lockdowns in any of these earlier pandemics. In fact, aside from this corona-panic, at no time in history have the healthy been quarantined. 

Before you argue that social-distancing and lockdown have kept the Covid-19 deaths down consider that the official modellers included those mitigating factors when concocting their original vastly exaggerated infection and death rates. Those geniuses got it so dead wrong that a suspicious person might think they did so on purpose. Could they have been that stupid?  After all, from the git-go there were modellers who got it dead right

Large  black ad white hollowed out question mark
What’s worse? They are Incompetent or duplicitous?

Any dispassionate observer who examined the history of the UN, WHO, CDC, NIH, NHS (or any other member of the alphabet soup of so-called public health agencies) would conclude that the inmates had taken over the asylum. Their record of wrong projections, lethal injections and spectacularly inept responses are beyond dispute and beyond belief. 

Three large cartoonish question marks
Duplicitous or doofus? You decide.

And, yet. And, yet. They are lording it over us. Calling the shots. And, we are allowing them to do so. 

Coming soon to an economic zone near you, the motion-picture entertainment of the ages!

Pen and ink sketch of Depression Era breadline
Cast of billions! Cost of trillions!

“1984 meets Brave New World”

Large paranoid eye with red surround
Featuring elements of every dystopian movie you’ve ever seen!

Plus, you’ll thrill to the spectacular second feature – 

“Big Mommy vs. the Big Bad Bugs

That Might Give You a Boo-boo”

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra enters Rome.
  • SEE – the masses fight to be first in line for vaccine shots! 
  • THRILL – while morons demand more government surveillance! 
  • MARVEL – as cretins beg for chip implants! 
  • GASP – to see suckers accept a devalued, cashless currency. 
Black and white sketch of paranoid, hypnotised eyes

I feel it in my waters. You do, too. We all do. We all feel it but dare not speak it. We know what’s really going on here. But, we also know that terrible truths must be spoken aloud to be made real. We are terrified of speaking into life the horrible future we foresee.  

 “In the beginning was the word…

and the word was made flesh.”

Meanwhile… Don’t kid yourself. There won’t be any big pushback. Oh, sure, a few horn-honking, flag-waving, Bible and constitution-clutching diehards. But, no widespread revolt. No 1776, No Yellow Vests. No Antifa. No alt-right. No nuthin’. Acquiescence. That’s all there will be. Acquiescence. Surrender. Compliance.

POLICING BY CONSENT 

I wish I was wrong. I hope I am proven so. But…   

Vintage WW1 poster "Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?"
Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great Corona war?
Obey.
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Available as an eBook here
And as a paperback and eBook here
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk

Ghosts of Covid 19

I looked across the street and there was Kirk sitting alone on a bench at a bus stop. I was surprised to see him because I had only moments before deleted him from my WhatsApp. I had deleted Kirk because he was dead. 

Empty bench at bus stop.

I had spent several moments debating his deletion. It’s an act of frightening finality like scratching a dead friend from an address book or a family member from your Christmas card list. Now, I felt slightly affronted that, after causing me the upset of eliminating him from my social circle going forward, Kirk was back. Uninvited.  

It was Kirk alright. Over there on the bench. Waiting for a bus. No play of the light. No doppelganger. No undigested bit of cheese. No. It was Kirk in full fleshy form. Dead but somehow alive. I considered hailing him, “Kirk, what the fuck?” But, decided that might frighten him. So, I used the nearby zebra crossing to get over to him. I checked for cars to my right but when I checked to my left, Kirk had vanished. He hadn’t boarded a bus because none had passed. The street was empty. No crowd to get lost in. No place to hide. No. Kirk had vanished. 

I was sure that Kirk had died earlier that day of Covid 19. At least, that’s what they told me. Covid 19. That’s what they’d been telling everyone about anyone who had died. Covid 19. But, in Kirk’s case it made sense. He was a burly type but pushing seventy and deceptively weak inside. He’d been dealt a bad genetic hand. They turned Kirk’s respirator off on the eight day. But, I knew he was a goner when he stayed in the London hospital for more than two days.

Dead man's feet in morgue with toe tags.

English hospitals are lethally dirty places at the best of times. Kirk would have been safer in a men’s room stall in a tube station. But, Britain’s National Health Service is the state religion and otherwise intelligent folk are afraid to criticize it. They prefer to die. To take one for the team. (This misplaced stoicism is the only remnant of “stiff upper lip” still on display on this island.) The NHS manages to kill 40,000 a year with malpractice. And, that’s in normal years. How many of Britain’s Corona dead were foolishly trusting souls who fell not to the virus but to the inept ministrations of socialized medicine? 

memento more of skull with wings.
Mustn’t grumble, mate.

The only other person I knew who died of Covid 19 was a New York actor of some note. I’d never met him. Yet, our lives were inextricably linked. Forty years ago, he inherited a girlfriend of mine who had just dumped me. He didn’t do this to hurt me. We’d never met. But, I never forgave him for poaching my quail.

Then, in a coincidence of startling cruelty, he starred in an off-Broadway play as a character that was based on me. And, he got the biggest laugh of the night with a monologue in which he recounted one of the most painful romantic disasters of my life.  The play had been written by an old roommate of mine. I didn’t mind that he used my life as comic fodder. But, I never forgave the actor for playing me. And, worse, for getting such big laughs. 

Pierrot stabbed daed on stage with other Commedia dell Arte characters.
Laugh clown, laugh.

So, when he died, I was glad. Not elated. But definitely a “gotcha” moment. It wasn’t schadenfreude – that’s the sweet pleasure one feels due to the failure and misfortunes of friends. This actor was never a friend. But, his death from Covid 19 gave me an undeniable twinge of sweet pleasure none the less. I am not completely without compassion. I hoped his death had been as painless as possible but I was glad the son of a bitch was dead. And, of course, I felt a hint of sorrow for his widow. A hint. I hadn’t thought of either of them for decades and then they burst into my life uninvited and haunted my Corona lockdown dreams. 

Ghostly image of a cat on stairs.

As I sat typing this post, my cat walked between my legs as she often does, rubbing against them demanding attention and food. She’s been doing this more than ever in the lockdown. And, she’s taken to sitting on the stairs that lead up to my flat. She’s always waiting there for me when I come back from my daily sleepwalk through the local parks. And, many times during the day, I see her in her favorite spot in the back garden stretching her neck to see up to my third-floor windows and begging entrance. None of this would be unusual aside from the fact that my cat died two years ago.  

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Available as an ebook and paperback
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
and as an eBook
here

Korona Kitsch

As I sit typing, my neighbors are out in the street banging pots and pans, cheering, whistling, blowing horns and setting off fireworks. They are waving to each other across the street and across garden fences. Some are weeping. All are bathing in an orgy of self-congratulatory virtue-signaling. 

Weeping North Korean soldiers.
Thursday nights in Britain.

In Britain, Thursday nights at 8PM have become a national circle jerk, a Korona Kitsch fest. It’s a mass public-display of lock-step sentimentality as we give thanks to the selfless saints who work in the National Health System.  

I am reminded of the North Koreans who must cry copious tears on demand before the tomb of their fallen great leader. Or else! Meanwhile, in Britain, at a time of supposedly unprecedented crisis, our monarch has never seemed so insignificant. For, in Britain, Corona rules not Elizabeth and kitsch is king. 

Weeping female North Korean soldiers
“All glory and power to our unassailable front-line workers, comrade!”   

Saccharin citizens have put “Thank You” notes on garbage cans to cheer our noble trashmen. Widdle kids have attached finger-painted rainbows to those same garbage cans. And, those scamps have pasted rainbows to the front windows of their houses to lift the spirits of our indomitable postmen. (If you can find one!)  

British trash bin decorated with rainbow and Thank You sign
Lift lid. Vomit. Close lid.

Worse. There have been regular street sing-alongs to such kitsch favorites as You’ll Never Walk Alone, When the Saints Go Marching In and (Please shoot me!) Imagine. All sung while maintaining social-distance, of course. 

Social media is then flooded with gushing declarations about how moving the songs were followed by the usual teenage girl emojis but posted, in fact, by post-menopausal women. Actually, the Corona-mania has transformed the population of Britain into a squealing, tearful pre-pubescent girl. And, this is the men! The women… 

Weeping female North Korean civilians
And this is on a good day!

Long gone are the British “stiff upper lip” and motto “Keep Calm and Carry On.” British media (especially the undeservedly acclaimed BBC) has become one big broadcast moan of dependency, vulnerability and entitlement. Every radio call-in show and TV chat show is now a “can-you-top-this” contest of Corona victimhood. 

Keep calm and Keep a stiff upper lip plaque
As if.

Readers of a certain age will remember the 1950s US TV show Queen for a Day in which pathetic women competed for prizes with their tales of misery. Audience applause decided if the gal who had lost a leg to cancer was more miserable than the one who had lost a husband to the bottle. (Younger readers in need of a good horrified-laugh are urged to find the show on Youtube.) So, I guess it makes sense that a country already used to being ruled by a monarch should embrace the idea of a national misery contest to decide which lucky citizen is to be crowned King or Queen Corona.  

Woman crowned Queen for a Day
The lucky winning loser!
Woman and applause meter on Queen for a Day
Sorry, sweetheart, leprosy only rates 2 on the Moan-O-Meter

Meanwhile, the latest UK government figures reveal that Corona kills at the negligible rate of about 0.11 as was predicted by honest epidemiologists months ago. And, it’s been confirmed that the official current UK death toll of 20,000 includes those who died with but not necessarily from Corona. “Can you say, massive exaggeration, boys and girls?”  

But, facts be damned, the wailing and gnashing of British teeth proceeds unabated. In this panic-demic the Brits are determined to run to their rooms, throw themselves on their beds and have a good old cry. 

Cartoon of wailing teenage girl with pigtails
The great British public in lockdown.

What caused this seismic shift in the British character?  

  1. Too much American culture? 
  2. Too much daycare? 
  3. Something in the water? 
  4. Something in the food?
  5. Climate change? 
  6. Cultural Marxism pushed by anti-Western rootless cosmopolitans?

Answers on a postcard.

Cartoon of lemmings going over a cliff
Yeah, I know it’s myth but it’s also every Thursday 8PM G.M.T.
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Available as a paperback and eBook
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk

And, as an ebook here

Blog Outa Brooklyn

The blog that reaches the wet, dark, secret places where other blogs fear to tread.

Enjoy!

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: The smiling face of Steeplechase park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
And as an eBook here
https://books2read.com/The-Boy-Outa-Brooklyn
 

Postal Realism

Vintage postage stamp of mailman

Hallelujah! I passed the Post Office test with a gold star and was told to report to the massive Grand Central Station sorting office hidden behind the even more massive Grand Central Station. I quickly learned that working there was noisy, numbing, mindless, repetitive, soul-destroying drudgery. A shift was eight endless hours in a sweatshop under the blare of metal machinery, the glare of fluorescent lights and the stares of angry bosses and suspicious Black women who weren’t best pleased that a White-boy was on their patch. A White-boy who had passed the Post Office test first time. And, without special tutoring!

Sweatshop

I was shown to my letter sorting station where I sat perched on a scoliosis-inducing high stool facing pigeon coops labeled with Zip Codes – 11213, 10751, 10001 etc. Like a touch typist, I was expected to know the Zip Code coop positions by heart, grab letters from the mail trays before me and deftly flick them into the correct coops without looking. Meanwhile, the slave drivers… er, I mean… shift-bosses strode up and down the aisle shouting at me to work faster. I noticed that they never shouted at the obese Black women perched precariously on their high stools with one hand in a mail tray and the other in a bag of potato chips gossiping with the obese Black women on either side. These union-job-for-lifers occasionally tossed a piece of mail in the general direction of the coops. 

mail sorting coops
The rack… er, I mean… the mail sorting coops

Trainees had to raise their hands and request permission to pee and then had to sign in and out of the toilet room. After a few weeks on the job, I was threatened with unpaid suspension for taking too many pee breaks. But, I wasn’t going to pee or to do a line of coke. I was going to splash water on my face to stay awake. I was working the “graveyard shift” – Midnight to 8AM. And, it was pure hell. 

I would finish acting in a play downtown at 10PM then have two hours to kill before punching in at Midnight uptown. So, I’d join the other actors for a few beers and then head to work. I was never drunk but the hour and the alcohol conspired to make staying awake until 8AM a muthafucka. Round about 3AM, I would start fading and start my regular treks to the toilet. 

Zippy Zipcode

Meanwhile back at the pigeon coops… one coop didn’t have a Zip Code. It had a name. That name was Reverend Ike – a Black televangelist who had become very popular in the early 1970s. And, no foolin’, the Good Reverend got so much mail he needed his own Zip Code!

Ike sported the processed hair and wardrobe of a pimp. And, like a pimp, he was all about money. But, he was also intelligent, articulate, witty and (I still believe) genuine. (As an actor, I admire all good public speakers and Ike was one of the best. You can catch his act and his suits on Youtube. Forget Creflo Dollar and all of today’s exponents of the “Gospel of Greed” coz Ike had ‘em beat.)  

Reverend Ike
The real Godfather of REAL Soul

Ike’s God wasn’t no welfare God. Ike’s God was a Maserati, mink coat and motorboat God. Ike’s God was The God of Bling.  

I liked Ike. 

I liked him coz he wasn’t a hypocrite. He wasn’t preaching sack cloth and ashes while wearing Armani. He wanted his congregation to wear Armani, too. (Jim and Tammy Bakker later practiced and preached this same holy excess. And, Joel Osteen has become America’s top televangelist with a white bread version of Ike’s message.) But, Ike’s theology wasn’t original. It was a mish-mash of Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale and Napoleon Hill with a dash of the uber-pimp Iceberg Slim thrown in for good measure! 

Iceberg Slim
The Gospel according to Iceberg Slim

Ike had his congregation hold up and wave dollar bills while intoning, “I want money. I love money. Money is my friend.” He closed his broadcasts with a call for Love Gifts. Those were to be sent in an envelope simply addressed to –

Rev. Ike

Grand Central Station

New York , New York

The envelopes that I sorted into Ike’s coop (and I sorted lots every night!) were written in pencil, in shaky little-old-lady handwriting with many words misspelled and with backward letters. We mail sorters passed around the funnier versions. I envisioned Black little-old-ladies all over America waving their dollar bills at their TVs while intoning “I love money” then sticking the bills in an envelope addressed to “that nice young man” – Rev. Ike.

Some envelopes held nothing but coins but others held very large bills. (We held the envelopes up to the light and called out the denominations.) The bigger the bill you gave, the bigger the boat you got. Or, at least, that’s the way it was supposed to work. If your ship never came in then maybe you just weren’t gifting enough. (Okay, so Ike was a conman but he was a genuine conman – a very common character in American social, religious and political history.)    

One night I was being lectured about Aesthetic Realism by the paunchy, prematurely balding Jewish guy to my right. He was working on a masters in Philosophy at Columbia. (There were a surprising number of screwy-scholars working at the P.O. and they all had theories about everything from Bauhaus to blintzes.) This particular genius was also a homosexual and he wasn’t happy about it. He explained to me how Aesthetic Realism would cure him of his compulsion to fist anonymous members of the public in public restrooms. 

The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel and the change from homosexuality

Aesthetic Realism was a psychobabble micro-cult founded by the Jewish poet Eli Siegel who claimed that he could cure queerness. Aesthetic Realism enjoyed a Nano-second of popularity in the pretentious arty-academic circles of Manhattan in the early 1970s. But, I don’t think it ever made it across the Hudson. And, it was soon surpassed by the psychobabble sensation called est which was concocted by another Jew – John Rosenberg… er, I mean… Werner Erhard. He was a conman and not a genuine one. (What is it with these Jewish conmen and their psycho-cults already? But, enough about Sigmund Freud.) 

Eli Siegel quote
Reminds me of the deep thought of that other Jewish psychobabble genius – Marianne Williamson

So… anyway… I was half-listening to my conflicted colleague while planning my next trip to the toilet and praying he didn’t follow me in when… WHAM! Mr. Aesthetic Realism was pulled off his perch, handcuffed and dragged away kicking and screaming by a pair of plain-clothes postal cops. They’d been watching him for some time and caught him sorting mail meant for Rev. Ike into his own pocket. 

There was no loudspeaker announcement acknowledging what had just happened. The guy was simply disappeared like a Soviet dissident. At the next coffee break the Post Office grapevine passed the news that not only were we being watched from above like gamblers in a casino but there were spies working among us posing as trainees and lifers. We were slaving in the Grand Central Gulag.

Force march at gulag
Coffee break is over! Back to the coops!

And, people wonder why Merry Mailmen go postal

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio 
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park at Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as an eBook and paperback
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
And as an eBook here
https://books2read.com/The-Boy-Outa-Brooklyn
 

Roadmap to Blog Outa Brooklyn

Thanks for visiting my blog. It is a sampler of my murder-memoir Boy Outa Brooklyn. The best way to enjoy it is to start at the first post and read chronologically. I hope you’ll find it both hilarious and horrifying.

I will also be posting about the best books, movies and songs about Brooklyn. And, sharing my practical and off-beat travel tips. If you enjoy my blog, please follow me. Hover your mouse in the lower right corner of the screen and a pop-up box will appear. Enter your email address and you’ll never miss one of my posts. Your address will not be sold or shared and you won’t be pestered with any sales cons.

Welcome to my Brooklyn,

Jack Antonio

Available as an eBook here

And as paperback and eBook here

amazon.com

and amazon.co.uk

I Changed My Shorts

Poster for I Changed My Sex - Glen or Glenda by Ed Wood
Ed Wood got there long before “Jack” did.

As long as we’re on the subject of female torsos… we rented our Bowery loft to a yoga instructor who was transitioning to yogi, i.e. a female to male transsexual. (Mind you, this was 1976, so the current “I was born in the wrong body” dementia-mania is nothing new.) “Jack” was fresh from having her breasts sliced from her female torso and was wrapped in more bandages than Tutankhamen. This creature was so cranked on pot, painkillers and testosterone that she floated several feet off the ground, vibrating in midair like a hummingbird. (You know the scene in the horror movie when the actor transforms via time-lapse photography from man to monster? Imagine a stop frame of that process mid-way. That was what “Jack” looked like – suspended between male and female, between past and present, between serenity and suicide. Unsettled and unsettling.) “Jack” was so uncomfortable around men, I was sure she would evaporate whenever I got near her. I, of course, delighted in torturing this psychosexual misfit by getting “up close and personal” as often as possible. 

Vintage side show banner for a Half-man Half-woman
Whatever became of Jack, I wonder?
I fear the worst.
Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio 
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook
amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
And as an eBook here https://books2read.com/The-Boy-Outa-Brooklyn
 

Peruvian Peasants on Pluto

Peruvian peasant women in grain field
“And, then we get the stupid gringos to eat quinoa!”

I attended recruiting meetings at Commie Party headquarters where I was shown earnest documentaries about Peruvian peasants and served earnest platters of Peruvian grains. As I grazed and mingled with these earnest young workers-of-the-world, I was delighted to discover that despite their earnest demeanors they were total fruitcakes. All the motifs I’d encountered in my lifetime of kook hunting were on display.

Dr. Bronner's liquid soap label.
The young comrades read the label with as much reverence as they read
Mao’s Little Red Book.

These young Marxists were sure that JFK and Hitler were living inside the hollow earth and happily cleansing their colons with enemas made from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. But, there was some dispute. The neo-Trotskyites among them believed that Adolf and Jack were living in alien bases on the dark side of the moon and cleansing their colons with crystals. They also hipped me to the commie gossip that Mao had a taste for underage female flesh and that Fidel liked the dark meat – the younger and darker the better.      

Boy Outa Brooklyn a murder-memoir by Jack Antonio
Image: the smiling face of Steeplechase Park in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Available as a paperback and eBook amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
And as an eBook here https://books2read.com/The-Boy-Outa-Brooklyn