All over my neighborhood, and indeed greater Manhattan, there are American guys with
Japanese girls. Sometimes the guys are hot, but often they don’t look like anything
special, and they get these great girls to class them up a bit. The girls are trim, neatly
dressed, often in an accompanying theme to the men (frumpy, hip hop, disaffected,
collegiate), but sometimes they just can’t tone it down, and look crisper and sleek. Pico
Iyer cites Lafcadio Hearn, who has done much to bring Japanese Buddhism to the West,
as declaring that “the most wonderful aesthetic products of Japan are not its ivories, nor
its bronzes, nor its porcelains, nor its swords, nor any of its marvels in metal and lacquer
– but its women.” This seems like a long way to go to assert what is plain to see.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Don’t quit before the miracle happens!” members of the AA and NA used to parrot.
“Huberman said ‘don’t quit before the miracle’” quoted my big dumb ox of a junkie boyfriend, wonderingly. So sweet.
“I’ve seen some miracles there.” I’ve said, referring to this one place on St Marks in New York. This one place was the configuration of chaos. Miracles take a lot of chaos, I now suppose. OK, here’s what I mean, studs. Cats and Kittens. And then you’ll understand why I don’t usually explain what I mean. It takes too fricking long.
What those members meant was that it can be discouraging to stop drinking and drugging. The meetings are boring. You are supposed to start up an intimate rapport with people who, as one advertising snob put it, you would not even want to sit near on the subway. “How else would I know YOU?” as one exasperated Brazilian aristocrat put it after a jailbird hugged her tightly on 14th Street. But sooner or later you’ll forget your old interesting tumultuous life, and get some kind of hobbled new one. Go to a diner, be part of a pain in the ass group of patrons, dance to Nirvana on New Year‘s Eve. “Here we are now, ENTERTAINERS” you’ll bellow along in a long slinky dress, happy to be alive. Ish.
What Huberman meant to my boyfriend, who was actually on acid when I dragged him to that meeting at midnight or 2a.m., was “Here is a soothing saying. You are human.” What my boyfriend meant was “That is profound. I am on acid.” What I meant to do was repair my boyfriend, mostly because he was beautiful and I was lonely. And I knew better than him – why, once his jacket was on fire and he didn’t even notice! Funny in the recounting, but still….did I tell you he was good looking? German/Swedish descent, large, sloping facial bones, almost Mongolian, slightly battered nose. Black girls would look at him with potential love, us walking one way up Second Avenue, the girls with their friends or alone, alert, like me, spotting him. A queen once left his copy of Malcolm X on Michael’s bicycle basket, having seen him walk into a building on Christopher Street. He laughed bitterly (the Queen) and removed it when he saw Michael walk out with me. But I understood. The book was battered, thumbed through. It was a token of love, his favorite thing, it was a gesture to share with his pal, an emotional high jinks. My kind of street queen, my heart shoots out, eyes hurting slightly with rampant appreciation, gets shot down, most likely. Nine times out of ten.
That place on St Marks. Got an hour? Because I had several. Many hours, many nights, unable to sleep or matriculate, I would toddle over there. Everybody there, almost, was black, except for me, some unusual whites, a couple of unaffiliated Latinos, and of course, as usual, the whites that the other whites don’t really want. And don’t act like this doesn’t matter, my dear graduate students, my cowardly ideologues. It mattered a lot. Oh, here I am sounding like an ancient queen. But maybe? (I am).
This white woman with a priest’s collar ran the building, which had apartments and a few rooms, a couple of floors. It used to be “The Electric Circus.” It was filled with many cats and people who had no homes, or people who had homes but needed to play cards constantly, to occupy their now freed up brains. It was supposed to be a center for Narcotics Anonymous but nobody except for the odd career criminal really cared to be unnoted.
African Americans came from way uptown, the Bronx, Harlem, East New York, and it was their only spot in the neighborhood to hang out, so they often hadn’t been around a lot of whites. Some men came there on their first stop out of jail, remembering it or hearing of it, one handsome one got picked up immediately by a beautiful and terrifyingly competitive tranny. He wanted to just get a gun and shoot a lot of white cops, he announced. “I’m sorry that all those things happened to you.” I said outside, my eyes treacly, crazy with instant (fake?) understanding. We hugged, I hugged him he hugged back, his body was shaking, all the energy of all that rage getting touched just a tiny bit, I imagined – Alexis glared. I wasn’t getting him. Some gems come out of jail and you have to move fast, one writer I know frequented a midtown bar where they would hit it immediately, still working the fags, either permanently or until the lateral move to a female half wit.
People at this place slept in couches, fought, praised god, hoped defiantly, became rip roaring speakers, the ultimate coup being to get to where you could just stand up while you kicked it, too strong to sit down, too strong to lie, but not too dumb to craft – I got killed I got raped I got destroyed now I’m here! I was crazy now I’m here! I did that shit that hits the neuron that simply requests ‘more’, got two Felonies, one more and this Federal law created by a vengeful demigod means I am not here anymore, I’m there forever, Prison Corps. Marvin, an often annoying man, told me he sat in prison and just watched the stock go up and up on those private jails, Prison Corporations.
The two people I met who really did need to be removed from society, whites, didn’t even go to St Marks. Nobody to scam. Too church. Too dirty. The miracle might have been mainly this guy called Andrew who came from possibly Memphis. He showed up at St Marks and they let him stay at the hotline, really just a moldy couple of rooms, above the empty cat piss drenched theater, below the self created woman priest with the two pure bred stark white dogs she lived with in a very small room. Andrew mumbled completely. I was in front conducting the hour long affair, not even a junkie myself but sleepless, confused, brave, credulous, lonely, and determined to be a reliable white, not somebody who took off just because they could, even though I had some kind of uptown Muslim version of visceral slavery tale thrown in my face a lot, because as usual I am the white without a pack.
I looked right in his mumbly eyes, other people caught what he was saying, Andrew started to be more coherent, and several weeks later he was downright bossy. Some rule about protocol or a boom box, something that was out of order, Andrew became a slightly bitter enforcer for a minute. Well, that was the main miracle I remember. I wasn’t really a miracle. Phillip, was a guy who knitted and still carried an ice pick, a stellar item that harkened back to my Grandma Palley’s pre refrigerator time, “The Frigidaire” was a term she cutely maintained on into the 1980s, glad to have one. Phillip was a winner in thick glasses. Jackie leapt from oppression to fascist rage in a few years time, disappointingly, but still kept on being a look out for shell games, I was interested to hear.
return to SHAMPOO 35
Well maybe my miracle is that sooner or later, I do hear about it all. Defect of character, to parrot. Didn’t leave the boyfriend, he had to shove me away. Didn’t leave St Marks for a long long time, I had to wait until I got in a protocol fight with Alaric, who was carrying. Carrying a gun. Usually. Even then it wasn’t the gun that kept me away; I was just so p.o.’d. I had attended the business meeting, it was my boom box, surely I had the right to play my Lee Scratch Perry cassette tape, not listen to his less original Island Music? The way he yanked the electric chord out of the wall was really babyish, I felt, and triumphantly babyish, I had a hard earned fit and carried my radio/cassette player on home. I quit, but not in a larger sense. I just really like to play my favorite tunes. That’s my main thing against the French. Their food and elegant scarves are terrific.