Sunday, September 19, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xv)

My next vivid memory from April 1971 is of how I marked the third anniversary of the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt on April 23, 1971.

Only three years after the start of the April 1968 Columbia Student Revolt, the anti-war student and anti-racist student uprising was already beginning to seem like part of ancient history by April 1971. Ted Gold, a close friend from Columbia SDS, had now been dead over a year after being killed in the 1970 West Village Townhouse Explosion; and most of the other most active Columbia SDS hard-core activists I had worked with in 1968 who had joined Weatherman were underground, wanted by the FBI or now living in other U.S. cities. Other Columbia SDS activists or 1968 Columbia Student Revolt participants who hadn’t joined Weatherman, by now, seemed to be mostly going to or returning to grad school or some university professional training school (like a law school or a graduate school of journalism)—or now using their Ivy League social networks or upper-middle-class background contacts to obtain Yuppie jobs in the dull 9-to-5 off-campus world or dull teaching and office work jobs in the by-then less culturally repressive academic campus world. And some other Columbia SDS activists or ’68 student uprising participants had just moved out of New York City to the youth ghetto communities in Berkeley, Madison or Cambridge (which the New York Times Magazine had nicknamed “Berkeley East” in 1970) where, glad to have escaped from New York City, they were able to live a hippie-left-liberal or hippie-anarchist, counter-cultural lifestyle more cheaply, surrounded by a greater proportion of hip youth in their 20s who weren’t culturally straight than they would have found if they had remained in the Big Apple.

So in New York City only 3 years after the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt , it already felt, somewhat, that my 1960s Columbia SDS trip and the 1968 Columbia student uprising had just been a dream or some kind of a political fantasy. And, aside from a planned ritualistic semi-annual bus-ride/anti-war mach down to D.C. in late April 1971, Rennie Davis’s planned “Shut-Down the U.S. Government To End The War” by massive non-violent civil disobedience May Day 1971 protests and sporadic Weather Underground actions, New York City seemed pretty politically dead by the Spring of 1971 compared to all the mass protest that was going on politically in 1968. And the Bronx, in particular, seemed totally unaffected by what had happened at Columbia University in April and May of 1968.

April 23, 1968 also seemed somewhat like ancient history for me by April 23, 1971 because I no longer needed to worry about being drafted for the War in Viet Nam as I had to be worried in 1968, now that I had been able to beat the draft in 1970. Yet the worry about being drafted for a war which I regarded as immoral had, three years later, been replaced by the realization that, off-campus, I was likely to be an alienated, economically insecure 9-to-5 working-class wage slave within the politically and sexually repressive work world for the next 40 years, in the absence of radical democratic change in the United States—despite having gone to college and earned a by-now worthless liberal arts BA.

These were some of my thoughts as I noted on a Bronx bus westward towards Van Cortlandt Park and then, after getting off the bus, started to walk North up the hill, past culturally straight Manhattan College and towards the mansion in Riverdale where former Columbia University President Grayson Kirk now lived, on that beautiful spring weekday of April 23, 1971. I had looked up Kirk’s entry in the most recent edition of Who’s Who In America a few days before, for old-time’s sake, and was surprised that, like me, Grayson Kirk also now lived in the Bronx—although his new home was in a neighborhood—Riverdale—that was a bit more exclusive and wealthier than the Belmont neighborhood where I now lived.

Having brought along my cheap cassette tape recorder for my “3rd Anniversary of the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt hike to former Columbia President Kirk’s Riverdale Mansion” walk, I was able to record some of my thoughts at that time, while I sat on some grass across the street from the grounds of former Institute for Defense Analyses [IDA] Trustee Kirk [who was also then still a member of IBM, Mobil and Con Edison’s corporate boards)'s mansion and estate.

Three years after the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt, I felt that former IDA Trustee and Columbia President Kirk was both a war criminal, as a result of his actions as a member of the executive committee of the Pentagon’s IDA weapons research think-tank, and one of the people historically responsible for the U.S. power elite’s use of violence, police brutality and repression of New Left student activism to prevent the creation of a democratic society by non-violent means in the United States by the early 1970s. Also, if former Columbia President Kirk had not decided to call in NYC police on two occasions to clear Columbia’s campus of its anti-war and anti-racist students in April and May of 1968 rather than agreeing to meet the demands of Columbia SDS, I felt that it would have been unlikely that 3 years later we would have been stuck in the following U.S. historical situation in 1971: former Columbia SDS Vice-Chairman Ted Gold was dead; many former Columbia SDS student anti-war activists were being hunted by the FBI; the Kent State and Jackson State massacres had happened; and the endless war in Viet Nam still went on.

What also struck me as I gazed at Kirk’s mansion in Riverdale, three years after the Columbia Student Revolt, was how relatively unguarded it was; and how easy it would have been to stage some kind of militant “3rd Anniversary of the 1968 Columbia Student Revolt” action at former IDA Trustee Kirk’s Riverdale Mansion on April 23, 1971, to protest both the endless war in Viet Nam and the early 1970s political repression of white New Left activists, Black Panther Party members, and the Weather fugitives, as well as to demand an immediate amnesty for all the Weather fugitives.

It was while speaking into my cheap cassette tape recorder outside Kirk’s mansion on April 23, 1971 that I also articulated the fantasy of there eventually being a revolutionary libertarian communist movement in the United States where—instead of forming exclusionary love relationship with just one partner—revolutionary activists in their 20s and 30s would develop egalitarian, non-exploitative, non-possessive, free love relationships, with all the Movement activists with whom they worked and with whom they shared a mutual physical and emotional attraction. But this particular fantasy turned out to be a utopian one, given how most people, even in U.S. anti-war movement circles, had apparently been previously socialized prior to 1971.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xiv)

It was also on Lehman College’s campus that I met a new womanfriend one weekday afternoon on a warm Spring day in April 1971. After walking from my apartment, breathing in the fresh air of springtime and getting the spring fever feeling, I arrived on Lehman College’s campus and decided to eat lunch that day in Lehman College’s student cafeteria, since I was hungry and had never eaten there before (and would never ever eat inside there again).

After filling my lunch tray with some cheap food and then paying the cashier, I looked around the crowded cafeteria to see where I could sit. The student cafeteria at Lehman College was smaller than the student cafeteria at Queens College, where I had often eaten lunch while taking a few summer school courses there nearly two years before, in the Summer of 1969. But nearly all the students in the Lehman College cafeteria in 1971 looked a lot more culturally straight than the students in the cafeteria at Queens College had looked in 1969, and the ratio of women to men in the Lehman College student cafeteria was much more equal. In the Queens College student cafeteria in 1969 there seemed to be about 7 women students for every 3 male students, and a much larger percentage of the Queens College men students had long hair; and, although mainly apolitical, the young men there still seemed to identify more strongly with the hippie youth culture of the late 1960s than did the Lehman College male students eating lunch in its student cafeteria in April 1971 (when being a hippie had become a less fashionable youth trend in the U.S. mainstream mass media marketing-manipulation-disinformation-system).

Finally noticing a table on the right side of the cafeteria with mostly vacant seats, I walked over to that table, which was also near the front of the cafeteria, put my tray of lunch down on the table, and started to quickly eat my food, since hanging out in the Lehman College cafeteria on such a nice Spring day seemed like a much less interesting and less pleasurable option than hanging around outside on the campus or in a local park for awhile.

But about five minutes later, across the cafeteria table and about a yard to my left, a young white woman student, about 5 foot three, with long, light brown hair, little make-up, no lipstick and intelligent-looking blue eyes, who was wearing blue jeans and a white blouse, put her tray down on the table and, without noticing me, sat down. Since the only reason she seemed to have chosen the seat across the table from me seemed to be that it had been the first vacant seat she had noticed in the cafeteria and not because she particularly was interested in sitting near me, after I glanced at the woman student, who looked like she was also in her early 20s, I, at first, assumed that once I finished eating my lunch I would just quickly get up and go on my way.

But right before I was about to leave the Lehman College cafeteria, I suddenly noticed that the woman student sitting across from me was reading a copy of the current issue of the Village Voice as she ate her lunch. Because nobody else in the whole student cafeteria was either reading that week’s issue of the Village Voice or even looked like they ever read the Village Voice, I became curious about what she was into.

So I moved a little more directly opposite and directly across from her on the cafeteria table and asked with a smile: “Is there anything interesting to read in the Voice this week?”

Surprised that I had noticed what she was reading and had asked her a question, the woman student looked up, glanced at me and answered: “A few articles seem interesting.”

“Not many other people seem to read the Village Voice at this school. How did you end up going to school at Lehman College?” I replied.

She then started to chat with me and we got into a heavy philosophical conversation for the next half an hour before she had to leave for an afternoon class. And by the end of our first conversation she had told me that her name was Eileen.

Eileen had a part-time job working at a day care center for pre-school children in the morning, but was taking some undergraduate courses, including some kind of a women’s studies course, at Lehman College on weekday afternoons, in order to get her BA. I can’t recall exactly what Eileen was majoring in, because she then seemed kind of vague, herself, about what exactly she wanted to get a BA degree in. But I think she was more into getting a degree in something related to getting a job in the human services field—like in child psychology, psychology, or sociology—than in some more go-to-grad-school-oriented heavy academic subject—like English, history or anthropology.

At the same time she was working part-time in the mornings and attending Lehman College in the afternoon, Eileen was also living with an apolitical guy, about the same age as us, who hadn’t gone to college, but who was apparently already making good money at a 9-to-5 blue-collar day-job.

But being a Village Voice reader and taking a women’s studies course at Lehman College in 1971 had apparently caused Eileen to feel more dissatisfied with the traditional kind of relationship she had with her boyfriend—who apparently didn’t have much of a feminist consciousness and apparently loved her more because she did the housework, cooked and fulfilled her sexual needs than because he also found her intellectually interesting and also enjoyed talking with her.

So, not surprisingly, once Eileen heard me articulate a radical left male feminist cultural critique of U.S. society, the 9-to-5 world, CUNY’s institutionally sexist and then-interpersonally sexist mass educational system, and the way U.S. women were then generally still exploited in both the home and in the U.S. work-world in 1971, Eileen seemed intellectually intrigued by me. Because what I was saying seemed to reflect the intellectual and philosophical wavelength she had drifted towards since she had started reading the Village Voice and begun taking undergraduate college courses.

But although I felt an attraction to Eileen after we first met and talked in the Lehman College cafeteria, once she left to go to her next afternoon class I assumed that, since she was living with her boyfriend, it was unlikely that I was going to get any closer to her on an emotional level in either the short-run or the long-run in 1971.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xiii)

In March, April and May of 1971, I began to spend more time than previously browsing in the Lehman College Library in the afternoon and evening. Not being a student there in the Spring of 1971--and not yet realizing that it was sometimes still possible to gain college library book borrowing privileges at some of the CUNY campus libraries, like at Brooklyn College, by just paying a $50 fee each year—I assumed there was no way I could take home any university library books to read like I had been able to do at Columbia, Richmond College, Queens College and Lehman College when I was officially a student at those places. So most of my browsing activity in the Lehman College library in the Spring of 1971 involved examining reference books that were unavailable to take home from the library even by students who were officially enrolled at Lehman College.

I can’t recall much of what I read while browsing in the Lehman College library in the afternoon or evenings in late March, April and May of 1971. But one thing I do remember is that it was in the Lehman College library that I found the CUNY public records of CUNY faculty salaries which indicated that--while the hippy students at Richmond College received no money for attending college classes taught by hip professors who claimed to be for economic equality and into the hippie values of being more into sharing than making money--the hip professors at places like Richmond College and other CCNY units were being paid $28,000 per year in 1970-71, when most young U.S. workers in Manhattan were only earning between $5,000 and $10,000 per year in 1970-71 for having to work at 9 to 5 menial clerical or blue-collar jobs.

Prior to discovering the CUNY public records of what CUNY profs were being paid in 1970-71, I had assumed that, at most, for doing a soft job that involved mostly just leading discussions and lecturing from notes in a classroom for maybe 15 hours a week, as well as hanging out in their academic offices for another three hours, CUNY professors were being paid no more than the $10,000 to $15,000 per year salaries that the older clerical or unionized blue-collar workers who were trapped in 9 to 5 jobs for 35 hours per week were generally being paid at that time. So when I learned that the CUNY profs—some of whom were only in their late 20s or early 30s—were being paid 4 to 5 times what most of their recent students were being paid once they found themselves trapped in the 9-to-5 “real world” and 2 to 3 times what most older office workers or blue-collar workers who had been stuck in the 9-to-5 “real world” for over 20 years were only allowed to earn, I was shocked. And I quickly concluded that left academics and hippie academic professors in the United States were, by 1971, bringing home such relatively high upper-middle-class salaries that they now had a vested economic interest—like their less intellectual, less politically radical, less hip, more conventionally straight middle-class colleagues who were also members of the privileged, economically secure, now affluent U.S. “professoriate”—in not really encouraging their students to support a Black Panther Party-led or a revolutionary feminist-led anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-classist, anti-racist and anti-sexist Revolution in the United States during the 1970s.

What I also remember about browsing in the library at Lehman College in late March, April and May of 1971 is that I chatted for a long time in the evening a few times with the reference librarian there, who was a bearded, bored, intellectual guy in his early 50s, who looked a little like Nat Hentoff looked at that time in his appearance. One reason the bearded librarian probably was bored being the reference librarian in the Lehman College library during the weekday evenings is that on some evenings only a few Lehman College students bothered to use the library for studying, research or even socializing purposes. And on some evenings, the librarian and I—just a non-student—were the only ones inside the library during the last hour—until the night janitor came to shut the library down.

Like many other underemployed, more intellectual older guys of his generation, by 1971 the librarian seemed to realize—as a result of the by then obviously wasteful and stupid endless U.S. military intervention in Indochina, the 1960s urban ghetto rebellions, things like the 1970 Kent State Massacre and the post-1969 economic slump in New York City and beginning of the post-1970 prolonged U.S. economic decline of the 1950s and 1960s affluent U.S. society—that the System in the USA was corrupt and irrational; and that only his retirement within the next 15 years would give him something qualitatively different to look forward to in terms of his daily life. But like the other underemployed bearded intellectual guys in his 50s at this time, who often seemed to be just working then for the sake of supporting their kids and stay-at-home wives, and not out of any intense interest in their jobs, the reference librarian at Lehman College seemed totally skeptical that U.S. society would ever be changed in a more radically democratic direction. So that people like him would ever not feel trapped in dull 9-to-5 day jobs or 1-to-9 evening jobs, if they were in their 50s and still had families to support, as he felt trapped in 1971.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xii)

In April and May of 1971, I also checked out some of at least two weekend street fairs/block parties that were held within walking distance of my Bronx slum apartment, which were sponsored by some of the local Catholic churches (to honor various saints) and the local small merchants/small shopkeepers in the neighborhoods. The street fairs nearer the Grand Concourse and Kingsbridge Road neighborhood seemed to be sponsored by some churches with mostly Irish-American Catholic parishioners and were held on weekend afternoons. There was some music playing in the background. But what I remember most about these afternoon street fairs were a block or two being closed to cars and the streets being filled mostly with culturally straight, family-oriented elderly and young adults who lived in the neighborhood, their children or neighborhood high school age teenagers and a lot of food vendors selling them food. Few single people or couples who were either college age students or people in their twenties without kids who looked culturally hip seemed to attend the afternoon street fairs which were being sponsored by the churches with the Irish-American parishioners.

A few blocks south of my apartment, on East 187th Street, east of Webster Avenue, was where the street fairs sponsored by the local churches with mostly Italian-American parishioners were held on weekend nights in April and May of 1971. These Saturday night street fairs in honor of some Saints were lavish street fairs and well-attended. The streets would be closed off to traffic for a number of blocks in the Belmont neighborhood, and rides like small ferris wheels would be set up in the street, along with a stage for street performers and musicians and singers. And set up by all the local small merchants on the street would also be booths which sold food and goods to the crowds of family-oriented parents, grandparents, children and high school-age teenagers who lived in the neighborhood and who apparently looked forward to hanging out for hours at these weekend night street fairs every year. Carnival-like booths, like those one might find at Coney Island, also were in the street, and people lined up to throw darts at balloons or balls into barrels or make some wager on a spinning roulette wheel in exchange for tossing in some money that would ultimately end up in the hands of one of the local neighborhood churches.

Not having grown up in the Belmont neighborhood like most of the other single guys my age who I noticed at the weekend night street fairs--and being one of the few long-haired, bearded hippies in the crowd that attended these events--I, naturally, didn't bump into anyone who seemed on the same cultural wavelength as me in 1971 at these weekend night street fairs. But hearing the laughter and observing the fun that most of the neighborhood people seemed to be expressing at the street fair--which seemed like a throwback to 1950s urban street life community culture--reminded me again that the 1960s and early 1970s TV images that assumed that most whites in the United States just lived in suburban neighborhoods whose streets were generally as deserted on weekend nights like the neighborhoods in eastern Queen that I had grown up in or the neighborhood in Indianapolis where I had lived for awhile when I was in high school in the Midwest, were not completely accurate.(Although to be fair to Midwest cities like Indianapolis, during the summer, at least, there were state fairs and county fairs held there on week nights and on weekends in the 1960s that were much more exciting than almost anything taking place on the same night on the streets of Long Island's suburban towns--even if Midwest towns couldn't offer its residents summer recreational hangouts during the summer like Jones Beach, Fire Island, Far Rockaway or Sunken Meadow State Park that Long Island provided its suburban residents during the daytime).

Monday, August 2, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xi)

Being out of the 9-to-5 Writers Guild Office Boy cage during April 1971 also gave me the chance to get more of a sense of the Belmont neighborhood that immediately surrounded my $57/per-month slum apartment near East 189th Street and Cambreling Avenue.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Dion and The Belmonts--the vocal group that was from the Bronx's Belmont neighborhood and that took the singing group's name from the Belmont neighborhood--had become big stars in the pop music world. So, not surprisingly, when I would return home from my walks around the Bronx in March and April of 1971, I would often pass a group of different Italian-American working-class guys in their early 20s--most of whom were unemployed, returning Viet Nam veterans, who still lived wih their parents--singing a cappella the same hit songs of the late 1950s and early 1960s that Dion and The Belmonts had sung.

The guys all sang the late 1950s and early 1960s repertoire of Dion and The Belmonts quite well. And, not surprisingly, they all dressed similarly to how Dion and The Belmonts had dressed, although in a slightly more casual way, and did not have long hair and beards. But, because they had been in 'Nam, they did smoke pot by the 1970s. And, despite being mostly unemployed and still living with their parents, the guys who hung out singing on the corner also mostly owned their own cars.

Being a long-haired, bearded hippie in my appearance in April 1971, I, obviously, looked much less culturally straight than the singing guys on the corner in my neighborhood--none of whom had beards, all of whom had short hair and all of whom got carefully groomed haircuts when they regularly went to the barber shop. The Viet Nam Veteran guys in the neighborhood who sang Dion and The Belmonts songs also were still into clothes and dressing sharply and in a slick way, whereas a hippie leftist guy like me usually wore the same pair of blue jeans and some shabby T-shirt or sweatshirt every day, and had little interest in clothes in early 1971.

So eventually, the guys on the corner noticed me and seemed to be, temporarily, slightly curious as to what I was into. And when I was on my way back to my apartment one afternoon, one of the guys on the corner walked up to me and quietly asked: "Can I use your apartment to smoke a joint there?"

"Sure," I said with a smile. "Follow me."

After we walked into the apartment building, up the stairs and into my second floor 1 and one-half room slum apartment at the end of the hall, I noticed the guy from the street corner started to glance quickly around my apartment. But after he realized how little I possessed in the way of clothes, furniture and material possessions--and noticed that, instead of a stereo, I only owned a portable phonograph, and, instead of using a bed and chairs, I just slept and sat on mattresses that were on the floor, and that I didn't even own a television set--he didn't seem that interested in learning much about the philosophy behind my lifestyle of "emancipated poverty."

So by the time he had finished sharing his joint with me, he seemed to have concluded that if moving out of your parents' apartment in your 20s meant living with so little material possessions in a sparsely furnished neighorhood apartment as I did, there was nothing in my "emancipated poverty/hippy" lifestyle for him and the other guys on the corner who still lived with their parents to be particularly envious about or attracted to, in the early 1970s.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (x)

If you walked across the Grand Concourse towards Jerome Avenue, north past Lehman College and northwest of Lehman College, you'd eventually reach both Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. In the early 1970s, there were still a lot of Irish-American working-class families living in the houses around Jerome Avenue, north of Fordham Road. And the apartment buildings around Van Cortlandt Pak in the eary 1970s also still contained both Irish-American working-class families and the familes of office workers of Jewish religious background.

So when I walked around these neighborhoods a few times on weekends in the spring and summer of 1971, I'd often see young Irish-American high school working-class women returning to their then-culturally straight parents' houses or apartments, after going shopping, eating in restaurants, going to the movies or hanging out in the playgrounds or in Van Cortlandt Park. And in both the playgrounds and in Van Cortlandt Park, in the early 1970s, fairly large numbers of Irish American working-class guys and culturally assimilated guys of Jewish ethnic background in their 20s could still be seen playing basketball or handball in the playgrounds, just hanging out in the playgrounds and playing softball in Van Corlandt Park in early 1971. Yet compared to the Upper West Side, the Lower East Side or most campus towns of the early 1970s, the neighborhoods around Van Cortlandt Park and north of Fordham Road near Jerome Avenue seemed to have changed very little, culturally, from what they had been like during the early 1960s--except for the probability that more of the guys in their 20s who were hanging out in the playgrounds, besides still drinking beer, probably also smoked more joints now than did their counterparts in the early 1960s.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (ix)

Walking north and northwest from my East 189th Street apartment in the Bronx for a long time one afternoon in April 1971 eventually brought me into the southeastern area of Yonkers and the eastern side of McClean Avenue. Walking west on McClean Avenue, the neighborhood began to look familiar, since, when I was a child in the 1950s, my parents had often driven through the same neighborhood whenever we visited one of my uncles and his family, who owned a house whose backyard was adjacent to the New York Central (also now Conrail) railroad tracks. In the early 1970s, all the streets and houses looked a lot smaller to me than I had remembered them being during the 1950s. The circular drive on which the front of my uncle's house was located, for example, seemed to now have a much smaller circumference than it had had when I was a little kid.

Although I walked by my uncle's house where I had played around in as a child on numerous weekend visits, whenever my father chose to drag his wife and two kids to spend the afternoon with his older brother and sister-in-law, I did not ring the bell or knock on the door of my uncle and aunt to say "hello." By early 1971, my uncle and aunt in Yonkers realized that I had rejected nearly all of their culturally straight, materialistic, lower-middle-class values and, despite having gotten good marks in the public school system, I did not now look like I was going to become a lawyer, medical doctor or an accountant and become very rich in monetary terms. And by early 1971, I, in turn, felt very distant from them on a political, philosophical, cultural and personal level. On issues like white racism, they seemed very backward politically and morally; and they seemed like they would be very much opposed to the kind of revolutionary change in the United States that I was hoping to try to help create in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 21st century.

So despite the fond childhood memories from the 1950s that I had of my uncle and aunt who lived in Yonkers, I quickly walked by the 1920s-built house where they still lived that they had purchased and moved into from the South Bronx in 1949. And I only saw and spoke to them on two more occasions in the early 1970s when they were both still alive: once, when they visited my parents' apartment in Queens when I also happened to be visiting there; and on the day and evening of my mother's funeral. 

Aside from seeming smaller to me than it had seemed when I was a kid, Yonkers in the early 1970s still looked pretty much the same, on the surface, as it did in the 1950s. It did not seem to have been affected very much by any of the 1960s social, cultural, and political turbulence; and it still seemed culturally straight, although it's possible that there had been some kind of urban rebellion incidents and some kind of local Civil Rights Movement protests in the African-American section of the town at some point during the 1960s or summer of 1970.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (viii)

Around the Grand Concourse and Fordham Road there were at least three movie houses in the Spring of 1971. And it was in a movie house on the Grand Concourse in April or May of 1971 that I first saw the movie Catch 22. Around the same time, on a Saturday night, I also saw Costa Gavras’ Z movie and the movie about a police cover-up and police corruption in Italy during the late 1960s, Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion. Since the Bronx movie house was filled to capacity on the Saturday night I saw Z and Investigation Of A Citizen Above Suspicion, and most of the audience consisted of culturally straight white working-class residents from the Bronx neighborhood who were over 50 years old, I mistakenly assumed that even the Hollywood film distributors were now going to be willing to market politically radical films in the 1970s; and that this was an indication that, if even Hollywood was recognizing how politically corrupt the System was, Revolution was still going to happen in the 1970s, as quickly as Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin had indicated it was going to happen.

Yet when I heard Jerry Rubin speak at Fordham University one afternoon before an anti-war student group in the student union building on Fordham’s Bronx campus in early May of 1971, Rubin seemed less upbeat about the prospect of Revolution happening quickly in the USA than he had been during the previous academic year—despite the fact that his follow-up book to Do It!—the book We Are Everywhere—had just recently been published.

Observing that, for the first time in four years, there had not been a “spring anti-war offensive” by U.S. anti-war students on U.S. campuses in the Spring of 1971, Rubin attributed the relative U.S. campus calm during the 1970-1971 academic year to “the four deadly bullets at Kent State.” In Rubin’s view, although anti-war yippies were “everywhere” in 1971, the realization that Pig Amerika was willing to kill its own white children rather than end its war in Indochina had scared large numbers of the rebellious white students of the 1969-1970 academic year from continuing their rebellious anti-war activism on campus during the 1970-1971 academic year, in the aftermath of the Kent State and Jackson State Massacres.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (vii)

When I wished to mingle more with people in April and May of 1971, I would walk west along Fordham Road, past Webster Avenue and then to the Grand Concourse and towards Jerome Avenue. Sometimes I would take a left and walk south on University Avenue towards the NYU Uptown campus in the Bronx, which still hadn’t yet been sold to CUNY and renamed Bronx Community College, and stop at a local branch of the New York Public Library around there. A few times I walked around the NYU Uptown campus, but I can’t recall talking with anybody there or noticing any political activity going on there in the Spring of 1971.

Near West 184th or West 183rd St. and the Grand Concourse, however, there was still some kind of a Movement storefront run by a collective of a few ex-New Left student radicals who had joined either SDS’s Weatherman faction for a short time, before it disappeared into the underground, or PL’s SDS Worker-Student Alliance faction. I stopped in there once and spoke with a white Movement woman in her mid-20s who was staffing the storefront that day.

She seemed to be anti-war and socialist in her politics and someone who would be considered physically appealing by most men. But by June of 1971 she seemed to have gotten discouraged about the possibility that ex-New Left student radicals like her were going to be able to have much success interesting anybody in the Bronx neighborhood surrounding her collective’s storefront in getting involved in the Movement. And she seemed to be on the verge of burning-out herself as an activist.

Not feeling any personal warmth or enthusiasm radiating from her in the storefront, I wasn’t tempted to volunteer to work politically with her collective in the Bronx in June of 1971. In addition, by June of 1971, I was starting to worry again about where I would get some more money to survive economically during the Summer of 1971, and I did not feel the gradualist approach to building a Movement, that her collective still seemed to be into, would provide any kind of relief to my developing personal economic survival problems, as the Summer of 1971 approached.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (vi)

Sometimes I would continue walking eastward on Pelham Parkway, a few blocks east of White Plains Road. But if I wanted to explore the neighborhood much further east on Pelham Parkway, I would usually wait till the weekend and just hop on the bus that took you to Pelham Bay Park, and look out the bus window at the culturally straight people, walking out of the culturally straight-looking Pelham Parkway apartment buildings and houses to get into their cars, go shopping or enjoy the springtime weather on the weekends. On a few occasions, both during the week and on weekends, I would spend some time walking north on White Plains Road, under the elevated IRT line tracks, to explore the Allerton neighborhood—which I later learned was apparently not far from where Stokely Carmichael a/k/a Kwame Ture lived when he attended the Bronx High School of Science in the late 1950s as a teenager, before later enrolling at Howard University during the early 1960s. But I can’t recall ever talking with anyone during my walks along White Plains Road, north of Pelham Parkway, during the spring and summer of 1971.

When I returned to my apartment from walking eastward, I would often take a return route that led me through the Bronx Park forest area that surrounded the Botanical Garden area which was both north of my apartment and adjacent to the back of Fordham University’s campus. By 2:30 in the afternoon during the week and all day on Saturday and Sunday in the spring and summer of 1971, Bronx Park would be filled with enough people sitting on blankets with their children or with their friends, walking around and enjoying the green park space, making out with their boyfriend or womanfriend, enjoying the sun, picnicking, reading (or studying if they were Fordham students), so that you usually never felt there was much risk of being ripped off there.

If I had a small paperback book in my pants pocket (or was carrying a small knapsack with a hard-cover library book in it) during the spring of 1971, and the spring weather and air was giving me spring fever and making me feel I just wanted to sit outside in a lazy way and spend a few hours reading on the park grass, I would sometimes pretend that the Bronx Park and the Bronx Botanical Garden was my estate, while stretching out on the lawn and reading book. Feeling lucky that I wasn’t wasting the nice spring day during the weekday afternoon having to be stuck in a 9 to 5 wage-enslavement cage.

I can recall spending a few hours reading one of the volumes of Simone De Beauvoir’s autobiography stretched out on the lawn of the Bronx Park in April or May of 1971 on one of these beautiful spring days. Around the same time I also was reading her The Second Sex book, so my political and intellectual consciousness became even more feminized in a more deeper way than previously by the spring of 1971—many years before most of the male chauvinist, middle-class academics at the various patriarchal elite U.S. corporate universities finally learned in the late 1970s which politically correct words needed to be used, in order to shield themselves from being criticized by the middle-class feminist liberal academics for not having enough of a feminist intellectual consciousness.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (v)

Before you reached the main intersection of White Plains Road and Pelham Parkway, where the local elevated station for the IRT train that took you into Manhattan was located, you passed a small movie theatre on your right that seemed to mainly show films like Russ Meyer’s Vixen in the early 1970s. I forget whether or not the neighborhood had another movie theatre around the corner on White Plains Road that showed all the mainstream movies that the Hollywood studios distributed. But since the Grand Concourse and Fordham Road area of the Bronx, which contained four movie theatres within a few blocks of each other that all showed mainstream movies as well as some foreign films, was only a 15 minute bus ride away from Pelham Parkway and White Plains Road, if you wanted to see a new movie, you didn’t have to travel very far from the neighborhood to get to a movie theatre.

On White Plains Road near Pelham Parkway in early 1971, there were still a lot of small businesses and restaurants that weren’t part of chains and there always seemed to be a lot of street life and people walking in and out of stores and up or down the elevated IRT subway station, at all times of days. Sometimes I would grab myself something to eat at one of the delicatessens around Pelham Parkway and White Plains Road, but I can’t recall ever speaking to anybody in the neighborhood for any length of time. There seemed to be a total absence of hippies or freaks walking around this neighborhood on weekday afternoons, or even on weekends, in the early 1970s. And it seemed to be a culturally straight, family-oriented neighborhood that had been pretty much untouched by the political and cultural turmoil of the 1960s, on the surface. (Although, I suspect that by this time some of the high school students living with their parents, even in this neighborhood, were probably finding ways to covertly smoke joints at home, when their culturally straight parents weren’t around the apartment.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (iv)

One advantage of limiting my afternoon outdoor activity to just what was within walking distance in all directions of my cheap Bronx apartment in the Belmont neighborhood was that I didn’t spend much money anymore on paying subway fares or bus fares between late March 1971 and early August 1971, when I rarely took a subway down into Manhattan anymore. Since the Bronx--unlike Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Nassau County and Suffolk County—is located on the mainland of the USA, not on an island, if you walked north towards Yonkers and Westchester County you never were forced to end your walk by bumping into a body of water. No matter how many miles north of the Bronx you walked, you never could come to a dead end. And if you wanted to keep walking in that direction, you could actually get up to Albany by foot, if you were willing to spend day-after-day just walking.

Most of my long walking and wandering in the afternoon during the week would be either towards the east, towards the west or towards the north. Going east, I would walk along Fordham Road, past a Howard Johnson’s motel-restaurant on my right--where young couples who didn’t yet live together in their own apartments would stay for the night, surrounded by out-of-town tourists who were staying at the motel because it was next to the Bronx Zoo—and straight forward towards where Fordham Road turned into Pelham Parkway, with the Bronx Zoo gates to your right and the Bronx Botanical Gardens to your left.

Once Pelham Parkway reached the east side of the Bronx Zoo/Bronx Park and the Botanical Gardens, you entered a neighborhood that—unlike the primarily white Italian-American working-class community of the Belmont neighborhood in which I lived—seemed to be, in the early 1970s, a neighborhood of mostly white working-class people of Jewish background. Mainly office workers and their families who lived in rent-controlled apartments built in the 1920s and who seemed less affluent than the white working-class people of Jewish background who had left the Bronx for Queens in the 1950s and 1960s.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (iii)

Now that I didn’t have to get up early and be in a skyscraper office by 9 o’clock during the week anymore in late March and April 1971, I found myself sleeping until after 9 o’clock each morning. Then, after quickly washing up, getting dressed, eating a bowl of dry cereal and drinking some orange juice for breakfast, I would usually spend the rest of the morning during the week writing a new protest folk song or folk love song, listening to vinyl records on my cheap portable phonograph or to the WNEW-FM radio station that then played cuts from the most current rock albums, or reading some library book or underground newspaper. One morning around this time, for example, I wrote the “Give It All Up” protest folk song , which included the following lyrics:

Give it all up
For the good of all
Give it all up
To hasten the fall.

Maybe you got a job
A nine-to-five coffin
Fuck their mindless jobs
We’re after our freedom.

I’m sick of imperialism
As well as of sexism
I’m glad you’re here Kathy
You can lie on top of me.

After spending my weekday mornings writing songs, playing guitar, listening to music or reading, when noontime came around I would usually spend the afternoon, if it wasn’t raining outside, walking around the Bronx, exploring different Bronx neighborhoods, wandering through various Bronx parks, checking out the scene at local college campuses, walking in and out of stores around the Grand Concourse near Fordham Road without buying anything, and visiting local branches of the New York Public Library in the Bronx.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (ii)

Since my cheap, $57 per month rent-controlled slum 1 ½ room apartment was located only a few blocks southeast from Fordham University’s campus off Fordham Road, I would sometimes check out the scene there in early 1971—even before I quit my Writers Guild Office Boy job in early March 1971. Although by early 1971, Fordham University’s campus in the Bronx had campus gates and security guards or campus cops by each entrance, to keep non-student community residents from the Bronx from entering it, I was still able to walk onto the campus without getting stopped by the campus security guards or campus cops. Probably because I was white and still looked young enough then to pass for a Fordham University undergraduate or graduate student.

Also, by early 1971 a minority of the male students at Catholic universities like Fordham, St. John’s, Boston College, etc. now had long hair and/or beards and now looked more like hippies and freaks. So by 1971 when a bearded, long-haired hippie freak like myself walked onto a then-predominantly white Catholic campus like Fordham University, he no longer stood out as much or was as noticeable to the campus security guards as he would have been during the mid-1960s.

So on one weekend evening, during the winter in early 1971, I had no difficulty sneaking onto the Fordham University campus. After walking past some of the dormitories, I then stumbled upon a big room where the Shirelles female singing group was giving a concert and where it sang the “Soldier Boy” song hit of the late 50s or early 60s.

I don’t remember much else about the Shirelles’ concert, probably because I had drunk some beer and smoked a joint in my apartment before walking onto the Fordham campus. But I recall that I felt that while many of the Fordham University women undergraduate students in the early 1970s seemed physically attractive to me, they didn’t seem to give off as hip a vibe as did the women undergraduate students at the non-Catholic colleges such as Barnard-Columbia, NYU-Washington Square, NYU-Uptown, Richmond College on Staten Island, Indiana University, Radcliffe-Harvard or Queens College of that historical era. And in early 1971, you still didn’t get the sense that the students at Fordham University were smoking pot and using psychedelics as much as did the students at Columbia in the late 1960s.

Fordham women undergraduates at the Shirelles concert did remind me somewhat, though, of a blonde-haired college-age woman from College Point whom I had met at a bar when I lived in Jackson Heights in the Fall of 1969. No longer do I recall the name of the blonde young woman from College Point. But after we danced a few times I felt physically attracted to her enough to offer to take the subway back to Main Street Flushing with her, where she could then catch her bus to College Point, where she still lived with her parents.

But by the time we arrived at Main Street Flushing, I realized that she had pretty much been unaffected by the Vietnam War and the Movement of the 1960s; and she seemed to realize that my future financial prospects didn’t look promising enough for her to ever consider me for the role of potential husband for her and potential father for her children that she was apparently looking for some guy to fill. So I felt there was no point in asking for her phone number before we kissed goodnight and she got on the bus to head back home to College Point.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (i)

It felt great to finally be free again from having to report to a 9-to-5 cage in the Death Culture skyscraper world of Manhattan in late 1971. I felt freer than when I was a college student since I also didn’t have to sit in boring classroom cages listening to dull white middle-class academics ramble on in monotones, while mumbling the same lecture they gave months or years before, to their previous captive audience of young people. Nor did I have to do any homework or academic shitwork for the college classroom managers-profs anymore. Or have to stay up all night to finish overdue term papers.

I was free to sleep late, free of having to ride in the cattle car subway train from the Bronx to Manhattan, to try to rush into the office by 9 o’clock on the dot, despite the rush-hour crowds and daily subway train delays, and free to just spend my weekdays writing more protest folk songs and folk love songs, reading books that weren’t on some middle-class prof’s reading list, listening to vinyl music records and getting high. And when the warm weather of spring came in 1971, I was now free to spend my weekdays outside in the Bronx parks or hanging out on some Bronx college campus.