Going Postal

Vintage U.S. postage stamp

As the psychedelic sixties deflated into the sinister seventies, America was suddenly full of draft-dodgers, drug-burnouts and college-dropouts. They had few prospects and fewer skills. I was among their number. We “cultural casualties” wore the facial expression seen on the faces of people whose home had just been sucked away by a cyclone. It asked, “What the fuck just happened?” It asked the more terrifying, “What am I gonna do now?”

The answer for many of us was, “Take the Post Office test.”

I was among their number.  

Don’t laugh. 

The Post office was a union job, a job for life, a job with a uniform and a good pension and… and… “Jesus Christ,” I thought, “how the fuck did I get here? I’m an actor. I’m supposed to be a Broadway star. I can play a mailman not be one.” 

And, in fact, I was then starring off-off-off Broadway in a roach-infested basement in Manhattan. But, I figured I could get a graveyard shift at the P.O. that would pay my rent and leave my days free for auditions, lunches at the Four Seasons with movie stars and eight shows a week on the Great White Way. I might need this back-up job for a month or two. Tops.

Plus, like all baby-boomers I’d grown up watching The Merry Mailman on TV so I had a special affection for all things postal.  

Ray Heatherton - The Merry Mailman
He was always smiling so how bad could the gig be?

The test was held in a grubby room in an even grubbier West Side mail sorting office. As we applicants milled around outside the building waiting for the start time, I couldn’t help noticing that I was the only person there who was not Black, female and the size of a sumo wrestler.

Sumo wrestler

While these large ladies nervously ate and smoked, I nervously scanned the crowd for a friendly freaky face. Finding none, I assumed this intake of recruits was a demographic anomaly. 

Remember the first tests you ever took in school? The tests that used pictures rather than words? Brightly colored pictures? And, the few words on the page were in big size type? That’s what the test was like to gain a life-long union job with uniform and pension in the United States Postal Service.

Which of these three things does not belong with the other two? 

  • Picture of Horse
  • Picture of Cow 
  • Picture of Banana   

John Q. Public plans to sail to Bermuda. Which of these will he use to make the trip? 

  • Picture of Horse
  • Picture of Cow
  • Picture of Sail Boat

I am not a brain box. Honest. I possess very modest IQ and SAT scores. But, I aced this no-brainer test in no-time and sat there twiddling my thumbs. Suddenly, the not-so Merry Mailman running the test banged his gavel and ordered us to put our pencils down immediately. This African-American gentleman then explained in grave tones that if any of us found this test too difficult we could choose to re-take it. In fact, the Post Office had specially trained tutors who would work with worried applicants to help them pass this stringent test in a month’s time. 

Unison sigh of relief. Laughter. Test papers tossed into air. And, Whoosh! I was almost sucked out of the room in the wake of the departing multitude. 

Vintage Return to Sender U.S. Post Office stamp

Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment of Blog Outa Brooklyn POSTAL REALISM. You’ll thrill as this reporter goes undercover as a mail-sorter trainee in the Grand Central Station Post Office. New York, N.Y. 10017

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

A drawbridge over the Milwaukee River
Ya gotta time your jump just right!

I’ve always enjoyed getting lost in strange towns and since I was broke that was my only entertainment in Milwaukee – a strange town indeed. On Saturday nights, I watched German and Polish farm-boys, come to the big city for an evening of beer drinking and beer vomiting, challenge each other to daredevil leaps across the opening drawbridges that spanned the Milwaukee River. Sometimes they made it. 

Milwaukee hippiedom amounted to one music store that sold records, bongs and crucially, pot to put in those bongs. It was there I met a speed-freak wraith named Tulip. This sixteen-year-old ruin was another sign to me that all was not well in the post-Woodstock days of 1969. We’d just had Manson. Altamont lay dead ahead. The party was if not over, definitely winding down and the casualties were piling up.

Stoned hippie girl
Tulip was half this chick’s weight – if that.

Earlier that summer, I’d met another faded flower child. She had allowed a motorcycle gang to pull out all her teeth with pliers. She was tripping on acid at the time of the extraction and was sure her sacrifice would win her the bikers’ undying approbation. No wonder I felt a millennial chill. 

Tulip asked me for spare change when she’d been kicked out of the record store for loitering with sonic-erotic intent. She was one of several speed freaks I’d observed attach themselves to the front of the mountainous Marshall amplifier used to play records at ear-bleed volume. They glued their emaciated bodies to the amp’s front like an octopus to a rock. There they clung thrusting their pathetically thin pelvises into the vibrating sound cone as they and the guitar solo reached climax. And, there they remained until the store clerk peeled them off or the music ended and they slid to the floor in post-coital bliss.

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
 

Mention My Name In Sheboygan

Vintage postcard of Sheboygan, Wisconsin
THEIR Town

Sheboygan looked like Our Town and it was. As in: “This is our town you no-good, long-haired, faggot hippie-freak! What the fuck do you think you’re doing in our town? If you so much as look at one of our women (not that a faggot like you looks at women), we’ll cut your dick off and throw it on the grill at our next Bratwurst Festival.” 

As I’d driven into Sheboygan, I’d passed this cheery, road sign – 

Welcome to Sheboygan!

Bratwurst capital of the world!

The sign was lined with the crests of the Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis, Rotary Club, Masons, Moose, Owls and Odd Fellows – everything but the Raccoon Lodge and the Mystic Knights of the Sea. But, the town’s “Welcome Wagon” committee hadn’t taken that big-hearted, big-bratwurst sentiment to heart; especially where bearded, longhaired, hippie-freaks were concerned. If you looked like I did and weren’t in college or crippled then folks, especially in places like Sheboygan, were mighty suspicious –

“Why aren’t you in the Army, boy?”

Sheboygan, Wi. welcome sign
Or… not!

You know the scene in the movie where the stranger walks down Main Street and merchants pull down their shades and hang the “Closed” sign on the door while parents cover their kids’ eyes and pull them indoors? That was me in Sheboygan in 1969. You know the movie scene in which the stranger turns a corner and walks smack into the high school football team who proceed to kick the stranger’s long-haired behind? That was me. Or, the scene where the town’s folk speak angrily about the stranger in the third person while the stranger is standing right next to them? Me, again. So, getting a job in Sheboygan in 1969 was near-on impossible. In fact, it was impossible. Employers asked to see my Draft card which listed me as 1A, which marked me as bound for Saigon which raised alarm bells about my being in Sheboygan and close to Canada. 

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
 

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

Timothy Leary, Phd
Timothy Leary, Phd and maybe C.I.A.

In the 1960s, we knew that the C.I.A. had used L.S.D. as a truth-serum. We even joked as we toked that Timothy Leary was probably a government agent. We wondered as we got stoned – “What if the entire ‘counterculture’ was created and controlled by some shadowy element in the intelligence world for who knows what purpose?” 

Welp… crazy as it sounds, we now know that the C.I.A. funded the Abstract Expressionist art movement, influential literary journals and Ms. Magazine. And, there is intriguing evidence that Leary and Gloria Steinem were indeed (consciously or not) being controlled by the C.I.A. And, this’ll blow your mind – members of the Grateful Dead now attend the ultra-secret Bohemian Grove – the summer camp of the ruling elite that’s linked to the (gulp) C.I.A. So, like they say, “Just coz you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you… man!

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
 

Psychedelic Slum

Hippies on St. Mark's Place in the Lower East Side of Manhattan
“Hippie-central” aka St. Mark’s Place

In the late 1960s, the Lower East Side and especially St. Mark’s Place is the epicenter of New York’s hippie-yippie-trippieworld. It is Haight-Ashbury East. It is lined with head shops, record-shops, bookshops, poster-shops and vintage-clothes shops. The sidewalk is packed with freaks, frauds and fools. It’s fun. But, by the early 1970s, when Rob and I move in, St. Mark’s is lined with strung-out hippie-junkies and emaciated speed-freaks – the kids who forgot to get off the train before it hit the wall. They are gawked-at by tardy tourists in from Omaha and Osaka. (“Is this where the hippies live?”) In 1968, I see a Black hippie digging for food in a macrobiotic restaurant’s garbage can. Fifty years later, I see him doing the very same and he looks remarkably healthy. I’m astounded that the macrobiotic manure hasn’t killed him. 

Strung out hippie shooting heroin.
“Damn, that vein was here a second ago.”

In the early ’70s, now that their patchouli-oil bubble has burst in an explosion of exceptionally sour disappointment, the hippie-junkies and emaciated speed-freaks feel it is their right to “liberate” money from others – “This is a stick-up… er, I mean, this is a revolution, man.” Young actors are easy prey. So, when returning home late at night, Rob and I avoid the sidewalk and practice our broken-field running down the middle of the street. We figure this gives us more chance of evading any muggers or bullets headed our way. 

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
 

Menu for a Starving Actor

The Mayor of New York City - John Lindsay
The Republican JFK

AIDS does not get my friend, Carrie. No, this young actress is murdered in 1973 while AIDS is waiting in the wings. She is slain in the city of Taxi Driver,The Panic in Needle Park, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 and The French Connection. Handsome John Lindsay is Mayor. He is called the Republican Kennedy. In 1966, he wins office with the slogan, “Everyone else looks tired but he looks fresh.” But, by 1973, Handsome John has wilted along with the confidence of the ’60s. His color has faded along with the Peter Max posters in the Upper East Side and the Hippie murals in the Lower East Side. Rob and I share an apartment there on St. Mark’s Place. Two actors. One struggling. One not. Rob is not only “not” but “hot.” I have to endure the sheer joy of taking phone messages for him – “Rob, Sam Shepard asked if you’d read his play and Sidney Lumet phoned again. Oh, Mike Nichols wants to take you to lunch.”  

Vintage Florida post card
Brought to you by the Sunshine State
Chamber of Commerce

While Rob is lunching at Lutèce, I’m living on a buck-a-day meal money. Desperate for food, my antennae pick up a radio commercial that promises free dinner at Luchow’s German restaurant in return for listening to a sales pitch. The pitch will be for a property scam in Florida – Rancho Refritos Estates. Selling land in Florida is the oldest racket in America, second only to alternative medicine. (David Mamet’s brilliant play Glenngarry Glenn Ross is about Florida land-swindles.)

Movie poster for Glenngary Glen Ross by David Mamet
They’d try to sell ice to an Eskimo. And, do it.
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