And Eastward bound was I. Away, away from Riverside and crossing Central Park to Xanadu did Donald Trump a stately pleasure dome decree. Away, away from mongrel hordes. Away from the Museum of Dead Things and Hayden’s belly full of stars. Ghosts of Indians bleat in the wind, chanting, pleading for renewal…
Eh. Fuck ’em.
Look away from the “New Yorker” magazine, where old prose goes to die (the heady days of Cheever, Salinger, William Maxwell gone as DiMaggio and the Dodgers. Updike remains to sleep, perchance to dream of getting laid writing the same old white line)! Why does this “journal” still exist? Could not someone flush it from our misery? It’s an institution, friend, and institutions stand, relics that they are, to remind us we’re mortal, thank god, this won’t go on forever, and anyway, we’re not as boring as we thought we were, just look at that there institution swaying in the wind, begging, albeit with patient dignity, for oblivion…]
Mannahatta! Wondrous city of flags! Not only real Yankee-doodle flapping in the wind flags, but flag pins, flag mugs, flag shot glasses and condoms and REDWHITEandBLUE Christmas lights on every tree caught in the great tree Diaspora outside Holy Central Park where tourists skate in the seventy-degree November air. Don’t whine to me about Global Warming–my environment was always self-contained, a Greenhouse under strips of cobalt sky (and airplanes, lots of airplanes overhead, this being the hub of Modern Civ).
This week-end, for our anniversary, my wife, and I went for a “home vacation” on the UPPER EAST SIDE. True, we were treated like white trash, because they could easily tell we were didn’t really belong there, but at least we were admitted entry and saw something interesting, or rather didn’t see it.
There are no black people there. I used to think Woody Allen was a racist for creating an all white New York, but he was right, at least about the Upper East Side: a black person in anything but a servant’s role would be as ridiculous in one of his movies as an Alabama truck-driver would be in one of William Trevor’s Irish or English bergs.
Maybe black people just don’t want to hang out with white people anymore; maybe they’re bored with them. Could be. But there were many people of color in Central Park. People of all races in the park, but not in the Museums or Theaters or on the Streets, except to clean up or collect tickets or–literally–“operate” the elevator in the Metropolitan Museum of art. One man, in a uniform, spending his day pushing either “One, Mezzanine, Two, or Three.” No wonder he freaked out when I got on the elevator and pushed “M.”
“Hey. That’s my job. I do that. You just ride the elevator, you don’t work it.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know.”
“Well make it your business to know. I push the buttons. Don’t push my buttons.”
I mean, this ain’t Iowa, this is New York City. There are easily as many black people as white people. I’m not talking about some liberal affirmative action friendship nonsense where I seek out genuine African-Americans, drag them out for drinks and dinner, and brag that some of my best friends are black. I’m talking about natural social interaction.
This is unnatural. Apartheid-like. Weird. To walk for blocks and blocks and stay at a hotel and go to restaurants and not see a single black person, who was not in some servant’s capacity, outside of Central Park? ]
Mannahatta! greatest City on Earth I just paid $80 for Stromboli and a pickle it was worth every penny and espresso too and chocolate on my pillow left by the maid in my hotel room Mannahatta afoot and light hearted I take to Fifth avenue and amble to the Met where tourists shell out twelve dollars a piece for a “suggested” donation though they’ve no idea it’s optional they worry will they have enough to get grandpa through the GATES OF ART he’s a senior citizen but where’s his ID celebrity is in the air and celebration Richard Avedon Exhibiting exhibitionists: Marylyn Monroe looks sad; Andy Warhol looks sad and full of scars and holes; Abbie Hoffman, eyes closed, is sad; Sam Beckett is sad–so what else is new?–and across form the Chicago Seven are the men in suits and uniform who ran the War oh glorious, glorious dramas for the ages and everyone is sad!
Any artistic/political/literary/social whatever movement of any importance began with lower class whites and blacks and immigrant Irish, Italian, Jews, Russian, and more recently Latino, Arabic, Indian, Asian etc. Let’s not forget that the Beatnik movement fed on the forbidden fruits of the Harlem Renaissance and Jazz culture…and the last mass movement to have any affect on “Fashion and the Arts” were Punk and Rap in all their permutations from style of dress to poetry…
Art never comes to the Upper East Side or the Museums until at least a quarter century after it’s happened…but even so, now that everyone’s becoming a REDWHITEandBLUE American, where’s all this art and music gonna come from? Not rich white folks, or even “honorary” whites made up of “success stories” of the aforementioned groups.
Who can afford to live in the “dignified poverty” necessary to (I’m not gonna say “make art” that’s so corny), do stuff? Not that you have to be poor. It’s always better if you have money to do stuff, and lots of people who do stuff do it best once they’re free of financial burdens and can focus on other things… Knut Hamsun not-with-standing, that hungry artist crap is crap…you don’t have to be hungry, just alive…but most people don’t have money…once, you could devote a minimum of time to making money and the rest to doing whatever it is you do…then, if folks liked what you did, you could make some money selling it, or teach or get a sponsor or win an award or something, whatever…you were choosing to live in poverty in the Lower East side, Chelsea and other areas (except Harlem, where you had no choice) and do that whole waiter/artist thing “immortalized” in RENT.
Well, I took a look at some East Village one-bedrooms and studios, where not even seven years ago, my wife and I were paying $650/month…same studio now for $1800…same one-bedrooms “renovated”–they put in a dishwasher or something–now starting at $2100…that means, in order to live in a shit-hole, you need a full-time job, and a well-paying one too. You’re not choosing to live in a shit-hole because you’d rather devote yourself to playing the kazoo or writing the great Sanskrit comic book; it’s literally the cheapest place you can afford to come “home” to after you ten plus hour day of working/commuting being insane…that, my friends, is fucked. Gated communities for the upper-middle class–you have to be “up there” in order to afford to live in a shit-hole and pay first and last month’s rent and get your security cleared…]
Mannahatta! Heed not the provocateur, the conscience, imprisoned in brackets now and forever, a footnote fussbudget, but revel in my dream Art and Fashion Capital of the World the glossy ‘zines proclaim so buy a piece of New York and take it back to the farm or wherever the hell you’re from show them thar cynics in Town Square what yer made of… Oh yes we’ve Statue of Liberty statuettes and WTC souvenir autographed photos of the dead and pricey stuff too you have to pay our experts to appraise–well, you have your objets d’art, go forth fulfilled…go, go. Shoo.
This place is gone. The Big Guys have taken it all. You have no life if you work all day in an office cubicle for “big bucks” to live on Avenue D.–no mind at any rate…and what about the people who work all day in less glamorous pursuits, cleaning the cubicles, say, who don’t make big bucks, like…the working class people who used to be my neighbors around Tenth street and Avenue C? Some of them were even students of mine when I ran the Writing Center at Touro College on 23rd street and taught freshman composition for a grand total of: $25,000 per year before taxes–and I was the rich “professor;” what about those folks? Where did they go? Westchester? Great Neck? I mean, they can’t just vanish, but how do you make room for whoever’s making the 50-100K needed to live in their fine neighborhoods (refurbished, of course)? I smell a rat. I smell many big fat corporate/real estate/political rats…]
Mannahatta spires rise above your hip hop happy cuchifrito no tickee no shirtee Kim chi teriyaki why you always Russian Jew York Yankee sauerkraut in turban and sub turban hashish hookah herbal tea pink-oh, oh, oh and violet pussy belly-button girl drumbeat Madonna in the park with Cardinal Sin the real McCoy Ciao fun 24 dollars and 43 pesos fer yer pot melting to boiling point perverse show bum open to all players from Hellish kitchens and the lock-step faces of diversity…
[ Scrivener’s note:
Gotta take off for a while. Travel. Kinda cowardly to jump ship, agreed: but the Apple is rotting to the core. Big world out there. Lotta languages to learn. People to meet (and not kill, or want to kill just cause the New York Times etc. tells us to). Not everyone bleeds REDWHITEandBLUE — do they?]
Oh Mannahatta, rise above your ancient ethnic dark, dark-minded, outrageous self-centered self and become America at last!
ADAM ENGEL lives and writes in NYC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org