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.
Get this straight – George Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose while resisting arrest. Get over it . . . The ugliest thing on two legs is any dame with tattoos on those legs . . . Take this to the bank – Roosevelt and Churchill knew Pearl Harbor was coming and let it happen. Brave souls dared to say it was a set-up as the ships were still smouldering . . . One foreign spy even sent the US military his secret photos of the Japs’ table top model of their attack. Those pix were deliberately buried . . .
FDR was such an invalid that his doctors let him work only four hours a day . . . His own party wanted to dump him . . . The slimy Roosevelt clung on to power and spent most of his presidency convalescing on boat and train trips that were disguised as government business . . . Jimmy Byrnes of South Carolina was the real president . . .
The memoirs and diaries of reporters and diplomats reveal how shocked they were when they first met FDR and saw how sick and weak he was . . . The press protected FDR as it later protected JFK – another very sick man who was presented to America as an athlete full of vigor . . .
Had JFK survived his assassination in Dallas, his underlying health problems would have killed him during his second term . . . JFK was a notorious “Wham, bam, thank ya mam” Romeo. The amphetemine shots he got from a notorious “Dr. Feelgood” made him super horny and super fast . . .
Speaking of speed – Fast One by Paul Cain is one of the all-time great hard-boiled crime novels . . . It was written in 1932 but makes tough-guy tomes written decades later read like sissy-stuff . . .
Take this to the bank – Prohibition worked. It vastly reduced alcoholism and deaths from drunk driving . . . The movies and documentaries you’ve seen mocking Prohibition were made by people who had skin in the liquor racket . . . Algonquin Roundtable wits Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley shared a subscription to a funeral industry magazine . . .
As long as we’re on the subject of soap – the holocaust mongers no longer claim the Germans turned Jews into soap. They’ve dropped that hooey about Jews being made into lampshades, too . . . It was a braver man than I who ate the first oyster . . .
Blacks, Asians and Orientals still punish their bodies in a hopeless attempt to look White. Don’t believe me? Check out the ads in the back of their magazines . . . Your reporter thinks they should stop this mutilation . . . Attila the Hun was very short but Napoleon was of average height . . . Sigmund Freud was a complete and conscious fraud . . . Siggie was also a dreadful GP and a lethal surgeon . . . He dredged his toxic theories up out of his personal sexual sewer and simply stole and invented the rest . . . Freud, who was Jewish, wrote to friends that he needed neurotic middle-class Jewish women as patients since they were not really ill and would never get well . . .
These days no self-respecting shrink uses Freudianism which is now considered the phrenology of the 20th century . . .
Today’s savvy shrinks look at the family photos of their patients coz all the pain and problems are on full display . . . Sound wacky? Visit the Freud Museum in London and cast your eyes over the Freud family album. It’s bleedin’ obvious that Freud was a sadistic creep . . .
Shortly before his assassination in 1844, Smith spoke as one who knew he was about to die. He gazed into eternity and preached profound and terrifying truths about the nature of God and man . . .
Sorry to go against the grain but I’ve never joined the cheerleading for The Great Gatsby . . . Give me Fitzgerald’s essays about the Roaring ’20s. They are masterpieces . . . Even better is Appointment in Samarra written by Fitzgeralds’s close friend John O’Hara . . .
After Barry Goldwater’s landslide defeat to Johnson in 1964 and when the Republican Party was at its lowest point in history, John O’Hara boldly predicted a Republican victory in 1968 . . . This newshound knows that when the mainstream media ridicules someone that someone is worth a second look . . . Take another gander at Silvio Berlusconi. He was the only leader to oppose the removal of Gaddafi and predicted that the fall of Libya would produce a flood of migrants from Africa into Europe . . .
I’ve never made it all the way through Some Like It Hot . . . Say, don’t call me daffy – if Boris Johnson wanted to, he could stop the invasion of rapeugees into England via the Channel in a heartbeat . . . Wes Montgomery was a great jazz guitarist but I’ll take Kenny Burrell . . .
If it weren’t for White fans both jazz and blues would have died decades ago . . . On the last day of his presidency Bill Clinton (acting against the advice of his aides) pardoned the Jewish criminal Mark Rich and the Jewish terrorist Susan Rosenberg . . .
Meanwhile – the more things change the more they remain the same . . .
Legend has it that L. Ron Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology on a bet with other sci-fi writers . . . Sssshhh, it’s an open secret that one of the top sci-fi writers lived for years on his own tropical island where he indulged his taste for young boys . . . The African country of Liberia was founded in 1822 under President James Monroe . . .
Liberia was to be a haven and fresh start for freed American slaves . . . The first thing those freed slaves did when they got back home to Africa was get slaves . . . Meanwhile, on the other side of Africa . . .
Try this on for size – Minnesota has more Somalis than anywhere on earth aside from Somalia.
The White liberals who cry and march for George Floyd would shit their pants and call the cops if he came near them . . . Abbott’s Frozen Custard in Rochester, N.Y. is the best in the universe – end of story . . . Margaret Sanger, the unhinged founder of Planned Parenthood, attended seances to contact the dead children she had abandoned . . .
Is there a more annoying song than Hey Jude? . . . Whites are fleeing US cities at a record clip. So desperate are they to escape the coming race war that they are buying houses in rural America sight-unseen . . .
The electric vibrator was invented to save the wrists and fingers of 19th century psychiatrists who spent much of their time masturbating neurotic, middle-class women to calm them down . . .
The straightjacket was used to prevent the insane from masturbating themselves bloody . . . The Kellogg Brothers were 7th Day Adventist fanatics who invented cold cereal as an anti-masturbation food . . .
If the Chinese ever get the whip hand in America the Blacks will scream, “Come back, Whitey. All is forgiven!” . . . Other Orientals call the Chinese, “The Jews of the Orient” . . . Next time you’re in New York avoid Little Italy; there are no Italians left and the food is poison . . . But visit the nearby Tenement Museum to experience the “White privilege” enjoyed by European immigrants . . . Mickey Mantle, the great Yankee ballplayer, dropped out of the 1961 home run race with Roger Maris coz he got an infection from a botched VD injection . . .
Mickey got his clap shots from the same “Dr. Feelgood” who injected JFK, Nixon and most of Hollywood and Washington. We still don’t know what the good doctor was putting in his “vitamin” shots . . . Question: Does anyone actually read Toni Morrison or Maya Angelou? . . .
They were filmed in an old open-air silent film studio on a Bronx rooftop that had been enclosed for TV use . . .
I never liked or believed Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas or Rock Hudson . . . Lancaster was in Harvey Weinstein’s league as a sexual predator . . . The Broadway composer Richard Rodgers was another notorious sex creep . . .
In the early 20th century, Atlanta was the center of silent film production. Then the Jewish movie moguls fled to the West Coast to avoid paying patent money to the gentile Thomas Edison . . . I don’t care what vegans say, there’s nuthin’ better in life than a rare prime rib with a baked potato and salad . . . Lucca and Gubbio are my favorite Italian towns. And, you can give me Siena over Florence every time . . . How can it make sense to social distance getting on and off a plane but sit cheek by jowl on the flight? Youth wants to know . . . George Floyd did five years for holding a gun to a pregnant Black woman’s stomach while his partners in crime stole everything she had . . . When’s the last time you saw a man smoking a pipe? . . .
Laurence Olivier’s Richard the Third is so good it hurts. He based his villainous make-up on the vile Broadway producer Jed Harris and the Big Bad Wolf . . .
Ya think Rush Limbaugh will grow a pair before he dies and tell the truth about Jewish power and influence in America? . . . The great “commie-killer” Senator Joseph McCarthy is the most vilified and lied about figure in American history. He was rough but he was right. And the decrypted Cold War messages sent from the Soviet Union to its Washington embassy prove how right he was . . .
Be-bop sucks and Charlie Parker is the most over-rated figure in American popular music . . . Tell me something, why do so many doctors wear bow ties? . . .
Read Bruce Jay Friedman! He’s a darker Woody Allen and a funnier Philip Roth. He’ll make ya laugh and wince at the same time . . . Dames with spaces between their front teeth are instantly endearing . . . Women shouldn’t be cops, firemen or soldiers and men who serve must meet stricter height and fitness requirements . . . The Antifa-BLM riots revealed how out of shape our police and National Guard have become . . .
Most of the Old Testament stories including Adam and Eve and Noah and the Ark were stolen from the Egyptians and Assyrians then cut and pasted together . . . The chief Biblical redactor was a female scribe in the court of King David . . . With any luck I’ll go to my grave without having read Marcel Proust or J.K. Rowling . . . In his best moments, Jerry Lewis was as funny as anyone. The rest of the time I want to slap him. Same with Lou Costello . . .
The Empire State Building was built in one year in the depths of the Depression! One year! Think about that! . . . Homeopathy and chiropractic are quackery and so is “European-style” osteopathy. But American osteopaths are actual doctors. Their medical schools haven’t been devalued with affirmative action admissions. So, if you’re in America and want a good doctor get an osteopath. He’ll have OD after his name . . . German Village in Columbus, Ohio is the prettiest neighborhood in America . . . Abstract-Expressionism was funded by the C.I.A. and like “conceptual” art it is nothing but a money laundering scam . . .
In my last post, I wrote that the comic Mort Sahl said, “Lenny Bruce knew people use The Prophet by Gibran to get laid.” Not so. Lenny said it himself . . . But Mort did have the brilliant line, “In my younger days, I dated actresses and other female impersonators” . . . But enough about Meghan Markle.
I grew up in New York City in the 1950s – the last gasp of the Golden Age of newspaper columnists. These were the “gents room” journalists who sported trench coats and fedoras, smoked cigars and drank rye.
Walter Winchell and Jimmy Cannon were the “big beasts” whose columns brimmed with opinion, gossip, lies and even some facts. These one-finger typists wrote hard-boiled rants ripe with street smarts and sentimentality. They gave readers the lowdown on Broadway and City Hall and the straight skinny on Harlem and Wall Street.
Winchell and Cannon punctuated their column items with three dots that captured the look and rhythm of machine gun bullet holes. Like this . . .
Here then is my homage to Walter Winchell and Jimmy Cannon . . .
George Floyd was a violent career criminal and this reporter won’t miss his sorry ass one little bit . . . All women with pink hair and tattoos are skanks . . . I hate Oreos – always have, always will . . . If there’s a funnier writer in the English language than Charles Portis, I haven’t read him . . . If the world is facing an existential threat from Covid-19 then why in hell are any planes allowed to fly anywhere anytime anyhow? . . . Buddy Guy and Dolly Parton are the most charismatic live performers I’ve ever seen. No one even comes close. . .
George Floyd killed himself with a drug OD. He had enough Fentanyl in him to stop a horse and Fentanyl creates the delusion that you can’t breathe even though you can . . . The pulp crime writers Henry and Frank Kane (no relation) are better than Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. So is Ed McBain . . . The smell of flowers reminds me of death . . . Why do gay men always say “Miss” Judy Garland and “Miss” Peggy Lee?. . . Wanna know how and why the world was stampeded into Corona-panic? Read: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay. He nailed it in 1841. That’s right – 1841 . . .
Mainstream Jewish newspapers and organizations have bragged that Antifa is a Jewish revolutionary movement with roots in the Russian revolution and that any criticism of Antifa is anti-Semitic. So… by their own proud admission the Jews are behind this attempt at a violent overthrow of the US. Blacks are just their puppets.
Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in high speed, comic-flow are as good as it will ever get . . . Climate change is a hoax designed to transfer wealth from White to Brown people . . . I’ve never met a good-looking commie – male or female . . . All Hassidic Jews smell faintly of garlic . . . Virtue signalling Whites who support Black Lives Matter should move to Gary, Indiana or Camden, New Jersey to demonstrate they are truly “down with the struggle” . . . The jazz singer Johnny Hartman was the best of the “Sepia Sinatras” but he often strayed painfully off pitch . . .
The accordion and the zither should be outlawed . . . Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is over-priced slop. Breyer’s ice cream is the best in the world . . . New Mexico policeman Lonnie Zamora didn’t see a crashed UFO in the desert. What he stumbled upon was the NASA testing of a moon landing craft . . .
The FBI infiltrated and controlled many of the UFO cults and contactee groups of the 1950s . . .
Why are male psychics almost always swishy queens? . . . All imitation meat products promoted by vegetarians taste like a miscarriage on cardboard . . .
Most of Lenny Bruce’s jokes don’t hold up but his routines about liberal hypocrisy get better with time . . .
Mort Sahl, Bruce’s main competition, was never funny or dangerous . . .
American acting never recovered from the pseudo-Freudian, method acting pushed in post-war NYC acting schools by left-wing Jews who flunked Psych 101 . . .
Montgomery Clift was the worst example of this constipated style of acting. I always want to smack him and scream, “Just say the fuckin’ line already”. . . Steve Cochran on the other hand was a terrific actor. A real hell raiser. No mamby-pamby method acting bunk in his performances . . .
The two convicted Black felons apprehended with George Floyd didn’t resist arrest and are alive . . . The FBI’s secret recording of the right-wing militia leader Joseph Milteer weeks before the JFK assassination is proof that people knew Kennedy was about to to be hit. The tapes are on youtube . . .
Simple proof of a second gunman in Dealey Plaza is the cadence of the shots reported by everyone no matter how many total shots they heard. The cadence goes… BANG… BANGBANG. There is no way Oswald could have fired his bolt action rifle twice that quickly.
Bobby Kennedy never believed the Warren Commission . . . There was a second gunman in the hotel kitchen shooting at Bobby, too . . . There is intriguing evidence linking Canada’s wealthy Bronfman family to the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations . . .
Ginger Rogers was a great dancer but she was also the most underrated actress of Hollywood’s Golden Age . . . Since being turned over to Black rule, South Africa has become an ungovernable shit hole . . . The same goes for Haiti where Blacks slaughtered the Whites and mulattoes over 200 years ago. The result? Port-au-Prince is the only capital city in the world without a sewage system . . .
I don’t care what aficionados say, the Edsel was ugly . . . Lili St. Cyr was the sexiest of the old-time strippers . . .
Malcolm X was a pimp who sold Black women to White men. He then had sex with men in prison. Maybe he liked it coz his wife complained that he was a flop in bed. Most of the tough-guy exploits in his best selling autobiography are the invention of Alex Haley who later plagiarized a White man’s novel and called it Roots. Haley settled with the original writer out of court . . .
Louis Farrakhan the leader of the Nation of Islam is a Scientologist and a Mason. How does he remember which funny hat to wear and handshake to use? . . .
Leo Frank was guilty as hell. He raped and murdered Mary Phagan and threw her down an elevator shaft. Frank was a sweatshop owner, rapist and murderer. Mary Phagan was only 13 so Frank was also a pedophile . . .
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was founded to defend Leo Frank. Its lawyers blamed the rape and murder on two innocent Black men who worked for Frank. You won’t learn this in Parade the Broadway musical about the case or in the many biased TV movies. Hey, remind me – who controls Broadway and TV? . . .
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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!)
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…
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.
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.
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.
What caused this seismic shift in the British character?
Too much American culture?
Too much daycare?
Something in the water?
Something in the food?
Cultural Marxism pushed by anti-Western rootless cosmopolitans?
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!
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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 –
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.
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.)
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.
Don’t ask me how but in 1970s New York, modern dance had become the “New Rock & Roll.” Choreographers were so famous that they starred in cigarette ads. (And, you thought ballplayers selling Luckies was a nutty idea!) Photographs of these elite artistes, dressed in black and lounging on ballet barres, were splashed across billboards that towered over the streets of Manhattan –
After a day of improvised gesture and motif development, there’s nothing I like better than getting lung cancer.
But, the new-found popularity of modern… oh, no, excuse me, I meant to say contemporary dance coincided with the stylistic pretension known as “minimalism” in which the last thing any dancer wanted to be caught dead doing was dance. I attended dance performances in which a “dancer” just rolled an orange across the stage very, very slowly or opened and shut an umbrella over and over again or sat still in a chair – for an eternity. Stillness was the ultimate movement in the “new” dance. When one choreographer had his dancer stand, walk around the chair and sit down again, the debate raged in NOHO as to whether this represented a retrograde step or a daring leap into the choreographic future. This minimalist-dance craze swept across SOHO and NOHO even faster than chlamydia.
Lynda was slogging through a series of bottom-feeder jobs, too. No surprise that we needed extra income to pay our rent. So, we converted half our loft into a rehearsal space and rented it to every NOHO-SOHO “boho” who ran classes, conducted seminars, held séances, burned incense, massaged feet, manipulated skulls, channeled angels, cleansed auras or chanted om, aum, or papa oom mow mow. Honest to God, we rented to a troupe of world-famous tap dancers and a troupe of not-so-famous whirling dervishes. That was the last straw for our downstairs neighbor – Fu Yu. He was a world-famous photo-realist painter who worked ever-so-meticulously with an airbrush on his wall-sized paintings of female torsos. (Now, ya ask me, if ya seen one wall-sized, photo-realist female torso… but… what do I know?)
Fu Yu was mega because along with cocaine, punk and disco, photo-realism was all the rage in the soulless Seventies. But, all that whirling and tapping upstairs shook the building and shook Fu’s airbrush all over his torsos downstairs. When this happened (And, it happened lots.), he would storm upstairs and bang on our door like the long-suffering Mr. Yunioshi who lived downstairs from Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (Yeah, yeah, I know, Yunioshi is Japanese and Fu Yu is Chinese. Don’t get me started again on the Yellow Peril.)