In the late 1960s, the mentally ill of America were caught in a political pincer movement. The tightwad Right wanted to close public insane asylums to save money. The moronic Left decided that the insane were the only sanepeople on the planet and had to be liberated from “captivity.” Yippie fuckwits scaled asylum walls and attempted to “free” the petrified inmates. The result of this Left/Right détente was that many of the mentally ill were pumped full of drugs and dumped onto America’s streets. 42ndStreet being one. Aunt Rosa being one. (Ya ask me, insane people should be locked up and kept warm, safe and fed but as far away from sane people as possible. This “care in the community” and “mainstreaming” crap doesn’t work. All it does is create jobs for parasitic social workers while exposing the sane and insane to attacks from each other.)
My family did what we could to help Aunt Rosa but it was impossible to help her. She was crazy. She wouldn’t take her medicine. If we gave her money she gave it away or flushed it away. If we had taken her into our homes she would have burned them down. She needed asylum. As in “insane asylum.” There was no asylum in Times Square for anyone. It was insane to inflict Times Square on the insane and vice versa. Correction. It was criminally insane. The Left and Right should have been given hot-lead enemas for using helpless lunatics as pawns in their political game.
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.
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.