Friday, December 30, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxviii)

By late May 1971, I had written enough original protest folk songs-- that reflected a late 1960s anti-imperialist New Left revolutionary consciousness--and folk love songs--that reflected a male radical feminist left perspective--for some kind of vinyl record album that I felt a label like Folkways, Vanguard or Elektra might be interested in distributing.

But although I had played tenor saxophone in high school bands for three years, I no longer knew anyone else who was a musician. And I did not know anyone who might be able to get Folkways, Vanguard or Elektra interested in recording protest folk songs and folk love songs like “He Walked Up The Hill,” “Livin’ On Stolen Goods,” “Open Up Your Eyes,” “Bloody Minds,” and “Waitin’ For The People,” that I had already written by this time.

Within the Belmont neighborhood in the Bronx where I lived, the Italian-American white guys in their early 20s who hung out on the corner at 188th Street and Cambreling Street were still just into singing Dion and the Belmonts’ hits from the late 1950s and early 1960s a cappella. And they neither needed me to accompany them on a guitar nor had any interest in either listening to the kind of protest folk or folk love songs that I was then writing or to any other kind of folk music.

And the younger teenage guys whom I had heard perform at some kind of neighborhood talent contest that was held one Sunday afternoon in a local school auditorium a few months earlier were just into loudly playing cover songs of 1960s “bubble gum” rock music (that they had heard on the AM radio stations) with their electric guitars in a skillful way, in their Beatles-imitation band groups. And they seemed unaware that there had ever been such a thing as an early 1960s commercial folk music boom in the USA.

So starting out with no New York City folk music sub-culture contacts and no New York City record industry contacts and no money except my initial welfare check payment, it was hard to know where to begin in any attempt to get the protest folk and folk love songs I had written onto a record, on the radio airwaves or into the world outside of my rent-controlled slum apartment in the Bronx.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxvii)

No longer having the night clerical job at the Hunts Point Terminal Market wholesale firm in early June of 1971, however, did present me with an immediate economic survival problem: Where was I going to get the money I required to pay my unpaid $57 per month rent, my unpaid telephone company bills, my unpaid Con Ed electricity and gas stove bills and my food costs for June, July and August of 1971? So after I spent most of my paycheck from the week’s work on the night clerical job to pay for my next few weeks of groceries, I walked down to the local welfare department office, which was about 20 blocks south of my apartment near Fordham Road, and applied for home relief.

Before I had found my job as a special ed summer camp counselor the previous year, I had been rejected for home relief by the local welfare department’s long-haired and bearded, "liberal" white male caseworker/investigator, who seemed to be in his late 20’s. Apparently because New York City welfare department policy in the early 1970s was to pressure long-haired and bearded white able-bodied male hippies who were under 30 who applied for home relief to either move back to their parents’ apartments (even if they had been living on their own for years, as I had been)--by denying them home relief benefits—or to get haircuts, shave off their beards, start dressing up straight again and find some straight low-paying job in Manhattan.

But just over a year later in June of 1971, New York City was now in an economic recession, the Big Apple’s official unemployment rate was much higher than the previous year and I was now even more economically destitute than I had been in mid-May of 1970 when my first application for home relief had been rejected. In addition, since I had shaved off my beard and cut my hair shorter prior to being interviewed for the Hunts Point Terminal Market night clerical job from which I had been axed, I looked less like a white male hippie than I had looked when the welfare department caseworker/investigator had visited me in my slum apartment the previous year. So I thought that this time around my legal right for a home relief grant from the welfare department would not again be denied illegally.

But when a beardless, crew-cutted, white male, straight-looking welfare department caseworker/investigator in his late 20s or early 30s, with an Irish-American last name, appeared at my apartment door a few days after I had filled out my application for welfare at the local office, my heart sank. And after he interrogated me in a cop-like way for awhile and conversed with me about my current economic situation and anti-war ‘emancipated poverty” lifestyle philosophy, my impression was that he was resentful that the only job he was able to find after graduating from college was being a welfare department casework/investigator; and that he inwardly considered white male hippies under 30 (whether they had beards and long hair or not) who applied for welfare in New York City in the early 1970s to be just “lazy bums” who were trying to “cheat” the welfare department and avoid work—while “solid” right-wing white straight citizens like himself were stuck having to work 9-to-5 in jobs that they hated.

Yet he was still legally required to provide me with emergency assistance for at least one month, to prevent my possible eviction and possible starvation. So after he returned to his welfare department office following his investigation of my slum apartment (which was still much more sparsely furnished than the apartments of unemployed workers in New York City who were already on home relief in 1971), he did not stall on filling out the forms that were required to get the emergency food stamps and the emergency welfare check required to pay my rent and utility bills for June and July 1971 sent to me within a few days. But it was still unclear to me in early June 1971 whether or not my legal right to be placed on home relief on more than just an emergency, one-month, basis was going to be respected by the New York City welfare department.

However, when the emergency check from the welfare department and the emergency food stamps authorization letter arrived in my mailbox a few days later, I did feel a sense of economic relief. And I also felt so free of immediate economic survival worries once again that I started to again try to break into the New York City and Village music scene for a brief period in June 1971.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxvi)

Since the night supervisors were apparently themselves afraid to wait for the bus in the South Bronx neighborhood at the bus stop near Hunts Point Terminal Market, they assumed that I would be grateful if they gave me a lift in their car to Fordham Road—which was on the way to their own home in a more affluent Bronx neighborhood—after work each night. But in the Spring of 1971 I was used to taking buses at night in neighborhoods like the South Bronx. So rather than feeling grateful for getting a lift home from them during the first week I worked at Hunts Point Terminal Market, I felt more that my hours of work were being extended; because I was also being subtly pressured to sit in the car with these night supervisors beyond the hours I was compelled to be with them for pay.

Once the night supervisors saw, however, that I was becoming friendly during the night shift work break with the more intellectual older worker and former radio announcer that they were hoping to replace, as my first week on the night job progressed, they apparently also quickly decided that I certainly wasn’t the night clerical worker they were looking for; especially since I seemed to be quickly forming an alliance and friendship with the older worker they had wanted to dump.

So when I reported for work on the Friday evening of my first week as a night clerk at the Hunts Point Terminal Market wholesale firm, I was handed a paycheck for 5 nights of work by the woman supervisor before work began and told that I was “no longer needed” on the night shift because “I hadn’t picked up the coding and batching system fast enough.” Although I didn’t think it was very fair to dump me after only a week, without really giving me a chance to learn what I was supposed to be hired to do, I had already become ambivalent about whether it really made any sense for me to not quit the night job trap as soon as I could. So, inwardly, I actually felt more relief than surprise, shock, anger or disappointment when I was suddenly informed that I was getting the axe so quickly from this night clerical job.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxv)

The second catch and problem with the night clerical job (that I quickly discovered by the second night of work there) was that the apparent reason why the couple who were the night supervisors had requested the wholesale firm owner to hire another night clerk was that they were looking for someone to eventually replace an older white male night clerk that they also supervised, whom they were eager to fire.

Not surprisingly, however, by the end of the work break of my second night at work, I had quickly picked up on the fact that the older white guy at work--whom they were apparently hoping I would soon replace—was a lot more intellectually interesting to talk to than were the supervisors.

The older night clerk seemed to be in his early 50’s and was originally from one of the Southwestern states. Before U.S. AM radio stations mostly switched to playing rock’n’roll hit records in the mid-1950s, he apparently had been some kind of radio announcer at some small, independently-owned, non-media conglomerate-owned radio station after World War II, during his late 20’s and early 30’s. And between the late 1950s and 1971, he apparently had been forced by economic necessity to drift around from one menial clerical job to another in New York City and elsewhere in the United States; since there was no longer any need in the U.S. AM or FM radio world for the type of radio announcer that he had been. And by the Spring of 1971, he was already counting the days when he could start collecting his social security checks and finally escape from the wage slavery world that held little interest for him, intellectually.

The night shift supervisors, however, expected him to work each night as rapidly as they did and as if he was a machine. And they weren’t hip or intellectual enough to appreciate how interesting a conversationalist he was, whenever he would pause from coding and batching the orders for a few minutes, and attempt to engage them in some conversation in order to break up the monotony of the night work shift.

All the night shift supervisors could apparently think, with regard to the older guy who was an ex-radio announcer, was “he’s slowing down the work,” “he’s too slow,” or “he thinks he’s better than us;” and “we have to get somebody else who will work faster than him and never complain that we’re pressuring him to go too fast,” etc.

Of course, in the eyes of the former radio station announcer, the night supervisors were “crazy” for being so wrapped up in their coding and batching process during the night shift that they were willing to work like machines—and expected all the workers they supervised to also work like machines for the low wages the wholesale firm owner was paying them.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxiv)

The night supervisors were a married couple in their late 50’s or early 60’s who had apparently been working at this same job on the same night shift for over 20 years; and the one job skill they each possessed, that no one else in the world had, was that they could code all the orders received from stores for fruits and vegetables more rapidly each night than any other people in New York City.

Coding of all the orders by clerical hands was required, in order to enable all the blue-collar white male workers in the warehouses, located on the floor below this Hunts Point Terminal Market wholesale firm, to rapidly know which specific fruits and vegetables should be placed in bags, boxes and cartons and then onto trucks for delivery to which specific supermarkets and mom-and-pop grocery stores.

Computer technology in the Spring of 1971 had still not developed enough, so that small business wholesale firms could automatically match the phoned-in customer-store orders to a code by low-cost personal desk computers; and then automatically batch and create packing order instructions for warehouse workers without the aid of clerical worker intermediaries. So the night supervisors who could rapidly code the orders and rapidly divide the ordered fruits and vegetables into batches were still then considered indispensable by the wholesale firm’s owner.

The problem and catch with this night clerical job, however, was that the night supervisor responsible for training me to code and divide into batches the fruits and vegetables that were ordered was also an impatient, sourpuss, straight, non-intellectual workhorse who also didn’t really know how to train and break-in a new clerical worker. And when the typical newly-hired worker predictably failed to immediately learn rapidly enough the system of coding and batching that she and her husband had been doing for the last 20 years, she would push to get rid of the new hire fast—since the extra task of training a new worker was taking time away from the time she needed to keep the coding and batching that she did going forward at a rapid enough pace during the night shift.

Another incentive she had to quickly prove that any new hire couldn’t do the job was probably that it helped her create the impression in the wholesale firm owner’s mind that she was an indispensable employee; because mastering the firm’s complicated coding and batching system was so difficult a skill to develop that only she and her husband—and not any young eager beaver worker, who might be willing to do the job for a much lower hourly wage rate—were the only ones who were able to master it and do the needed night work rapidly enough year after year.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxiii)

After not getting hired for the mental health worker job at Bronx State Hospital in May 1971, I came across an ad in the New York Post for a night job clerical position at one of the fruit and vegetable distributing whole firms that was located at the Hunts Point Terminal Market in the South Bronx. Although my grandfather in Chicago had worked at a night job for the Chicago Tribune, loading batches of newspapers onto delivery trucks for over 25 years from the early 1940s to the mid-1960s, and I had previously worked nights at United Parcel Service unloading trucks and in a vending machine manufacturing factory during the late 1960s, I was not that eager to get a night job in the Spring of 1971. By this time I realized that having a night job could end up isolating you politically—since most New York City anti-war and anti-imperialist left political meetings were held in the evening—and socially—since having a night job meant that you lost any chance of meeting anyone to date or to love on any night other than Saturday night and maybe Sunday night(when most of the people you might be interested in meeting were probably more likely into getting ready to start the workweek the following day than into going out after dinner).

But being nearly out of cash and desperate for any kind of a job in late May 1971, I telephoned the phone number that was listed in the New York Post want ad and arranged for an afternoon job interview for the night clerical position with the owner of the Hunts Point Terminal Market wholesale firm.

After taking the bus that passed a few blocks from my apartment near Fordham Road and then went south through the South Bronx and to the bus stop at Hunts Point Terminal Market, I soon found myself walking past the daytime office staff of the fruit and vegetable wholesale firm—that was taking phone orders from various supermarkets and mom and pop grocery stores around New York City for specific deliveries of specific fruits and vegetables and writing these delivery orders on order forms. And I was soon seated on a chair across the desk of owner of the fruit and vegetable wholesale firm inside the owner’s private office.

The owner was a white man in his mid-to-late 50’s of Jewish background who didn’t seem that intellectual and seemed to assume, in an ethnic chauvinist way, that clerical workers of Jewish background would always be smarter, quicker-learners and more hardworking and honest workers than clerical workers from other ethnic backgrounds. So when I walked into his office with my Jewish last name and dressed up in my suit and tie, the owner of the fruit and vegetable wholesale firm seemed to assume he was getting himself a good bargain if he hired me quickly for the night clerical job. And it was agreed that I would start work the following evening at 5 p.m..

After being hired so quickly, I took the bus back to my apartment and, at first, assumed that I would now be able to survive for at least another year in the Bronx, not what I had been lucky enough to land the night clerical job at Hunts Point Terminal Market, despite the increased unemployment rate that was being created by the 1971 recession in New York City and elsewhere. But by the end of my first few nights at work at the wholesale firm, I soon realized what the catch to the quick job offer was; and that the night clerical job was actually a big trap for me.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxii)

It was around this same time in the Spring of 1971 that I experienced the only throbbing, intense toothache pain that I had ever had in my life. After moving out of my parents’ apartment in 1965, I had only been to see a dentist a few times between 1965 and 1971. Not being able to afford any dental care health insurance coverage during these years, I felt that spending the money I needed to pay my rent and buy food or paperback books on paying large amounts of money for regular dental check-ups, when nothing was bothering in my mouth with my teeth, was a middle-class, bourgeois luxury I couldn’t personally afford during these years.

I had vaguely remembered reading in college once that a revolutionary’s teeth were usually the first part of his or her body to break down; and that “you can tell who a professional revolutionary was by just looking at his or her teeth, since most revolutionaries couldn’t afford to go to dentists during most of their lives.” So I was not surprised that by my early 20’s my teeth were apparently starting to rot and to give me problems, despite my having gone to the dentist regularly during my pre-1965 childhood and teenage years, when my parents used to pay for my dental care.

The toothache pain in the Spring of 1971 was so intense, however, that, despite being nearly out of cash, I felt forced to make an appointment with some dentist in order to ease the pain. So I looked in the Bronx yellow pages telephone directory and called a dentist whose office was about 30 blocks south of where I lived near Fordham Road.

After getting an emergency appointment with the dentist later that day, I walked the 30 blocks south to his office, since, by that time, I couldn’t afford to take subways anymore. The dentist was a friendly white man in his late 50s whose son had decided to follow in his footsteps and also become a dentist; and who had recently graduated from dental school. After examining my teeth, the friendly dentist in his late 50s eased my pain by pulling the tooth, after I indicated that I neither had any dental insurance coverage or any pocket money to ever pay for the dental work that saving the tooth would have required.

Being sensitive to my financial situation, the dentist did not charge me anything for pulling my tooth; and he even filled a few cavities for free that he had spotted in my mouth, even without taking any x-rays. In addition, he also was even willing to set me up for a free appointment with his son, who had recently started working as a dentist in his father’s office after recently graduating from dental school, for the following week, to have my teeth cleaned.

But, ironically, when I returned the following week for my free cleaning with the newly-trained dentist’s son, the dentist’s son looked at the free work his father had done on my cavities the previous week and, in an embarrassed way, decided it was necessary to correct the dental work his father had done by refilling the cavities again before giving my teeth a cleaning.

Although I felt grateful to both the dentist and the dentist’s son for both getting rid of my toothache and providing me with some needed dental work for free when I had become nearly destitute economically, by the time I had finally found a job a few times in the 1980s that provided me with some health insurance that included dental treatment coverage, I no longer lived in the Bronx; and no longer could even remember the name or address of the dentists who had given me the free treatment in 1971. And probably, by the late 1980s, the dentist who was in his late 50’s in 1971 was probably retired; and his son was probably, by then, practicing in an office in either Manhattan, Westchester, Long Island or New Jersey, I suppose.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xxi)

Despite not being helped by my visit to the New York State Employment Agency in Manhattan in mid-May 1971, I finally found one ad in either the New York Times or New York Post want ad section for a job as a mental health care worker at Bronx State Hospital (which later changed its name to Bronx Psychiatric Center), the mental hospital in the Bronx, that I seemed qualified for. So after telephoning in the morning the person who was interviewing job applicants for the position, I arranged an interview appointment for the afternoon and took a bus to the mental hospital, which was about 30 minutes away from my cheap slum apartment by bus.

In the Spring of 1971, I was still able to act naturally in a much more enthusiastic, loving, personally warm and charming way in job interviews during my early 20s--before the years at having to repress my true self and mask my actual personality (in order to not get fired because of my dissident political and philosophical views) within the sexually repressive 9-to-5 office work world eventually changed my personality and decreased my ability to naturally appear enthusiastic, loving, personally warm and charming in a job interview. So following my job interview for the mental health worker position in a day patient program in late May 1971, I thought I had actually been able to get hired.

The person who interviewed me, and who would have been my immediate supervisor if I had been hired, was a friendly white woman in her early 50s who wore a dress, but still seemed on the same wavelength, philosophically, as me—in terms of how she felt mental health professionals should relate to patients in mental hospitals. Given my past experience working in the Queens General Hospital psychiatric clinic, in the special ed field and working as a volunteer in day care centers, as well as my ability to now entertain patients in a recreational setting as an amateur folk singer—and given the youthful enthusiasm and warmth I was still able to project in job interviews of this type at this stage of my life—I walked away from the interview with the impression that, when I telephoned at the end of the week, there was little possibility that the job would not be offered to me. And I would immediately be told to start work on the following Monday.

But apparently either one of my former employers bad-mouthed me or else some older job applicant with more experience doing the exact same job was interviewed between the time my interview ended and the time I telephoned the friendly white woman supervisor who had interviewed me. Because after I asked her over the telephone whether she had made a hiring decision about the position I had applied for, in a still friendly voice she informed me that another applicant had been hired.

Although I was disappointed—especially since I was getting even more desperate about how I was going to come up with my rent and food money for June and July 1971 by this time—I did not bother to question her decision. Not because I thought that I might someday apply for a job working for her at the mental hospital in the future. But because I felt that if it hadn’t been obvious to her that I was the person she should have hired originally, then it wasn’t likely that she would actually turn out to be the kind of supervisor I would find it easy to work under.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xx)

By the Spring of 1971, if you had a B.A. you were only allowed to utilize the Professional Placement division of the New York State Employment Agency, and no longer could also register with the Clerical Office Worker Placement division that was supposed to help high school graduates find non-professional clerical office jobs. But when I dressed up and visited the Professional Placement division of the New York State Employment Agency and spoke with the grumpy, short guy with glasses in his late 50s who was supposed to help job applicants find professional jobs, the only advice he gave me was to “apply for a Civil Service job and register for a Civil Service test”—after reprimanding me for not already having taken a Civil Service test for a professional city, state or federal government job when I had been previously working at my Writers Guild office boy job.

Of course, the problem with his advice was that even if I now took a Civil Service exam and thus became eligible for some kind of government job for college graduates, by the time the government bureaucracy would get around to hiring me months later in 1971 I would probably by then have already either starved to death or been evicted from my Bronx apartment—since I lacked any savings by mid-May 1971 and I couldn’t afford to wait months for a Civil Service job offer to come my way. So if a job applicant needed money right away in the short run, it was really useless advice for the New York State Employment Agency placement counselor to just say to an economically desperate New York City job applicant: “Take a Civil Service exam!”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xix)

By mid-May 1971, New York City was in an even deeper recession than it had been in the Summer of 1969, when the job market for recent young white liberal arts college graduates with a B.A. pretty much collapsed. By the late Spring of 1971, it had become almost as hard for recent young white high school graduates or community college graduates in New York City—or recent young white graduates of 4-year colleges with a B.A. in liberal arts (like myself)—to even find a permanent clerical office job in New York City anymore. And because of the 1971 economic recession, there were, of course, hardly any available blue-collar factory jobs in New York City for native-born U.S. English-speaking white workers (whom local bosses seemed to then feel would be more likely to demand higher wages and better working conditions than would U.S. workers who had just recently arrived from other countries who could not speak much English)—unless they had a family member or friend in one of the unions or factory shops who could arrange for them to get a position when another factory worker retired, quit, was fired, or died.

Not surprisingly then, when I started going through the New York Times Sunday want-ad section again in mid-May 1971—after shaving my beard off and getting a haircut so that I no longer looked like a hippie—there didn’t seem to be many jobs available for a man who was a liberal arts college graduate--on either a professional level or as some kind of office worker. And in the late Spring of 1971, if you were a young man in your early 20s, most New York City permanent job employers and temporary job employment agencies would still generally not be willing to hire you for either a clerk-typist or secretarial position on either a permanent or a temporary basis—no matter how fast the man could type—because of the discriminatory and sexist way the division of labor in the 1971 New York City office world still determined which sex would be hired for which jobs. Many U.S. newspapers had actually also only stopped dividing their want-ad employment pages in “male-wanted” and “female-wanted” categories less than ten years before 1971.

So if you were a young white male worker in the late Spring of 1971 who couldn’t land a professional job with your recent, practically worthless liberal arts B.A. or didn’t have a B.A. and just wanted some kind of office job, you were--given the 1971 economic recession--actually in a lot more economic trouble than a young white woman with a recent B.A. or a recent high school or community college diploma, who could just get dressed up and easily get hired--as either a receptionist (if she didn’t know how to type) or as a clerk-typist or secretary (if she knew how to type)—by the still usually male chauvinist or sexist white male office executives who dictated which job applicants should be hired by their personnel offices.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xviii)

It was on another beautiful Spring afternoon in early May 1971 that, by chance, I bumped into Eileen again, while walking up the hill on Bedford Park Blvd., towards the Grand Concourse.

To enjoy the fresh Spring air earlier in the day, I had again gone on the 20 to 30 minutes walk from my apartment to Lehman College’s campus, via Fordham Road and Jerome Avenue. And I was on my way back home when Eileen suddenly appeared in front of me on the street. She had just exited from the nearby subway station and was walking with another Lehman College woman student, who was in one of her classes, when we suddenly noticed each other.

Eileen’s classmate continued walking in order to be on time for her next afternoon class. But since Eileen had only been planning to go to the Lehman College library that afternoon to work on one of her term papers, and had not been planning to attend any scheduled class, she stopped and we began to chat with each other again. And, after a few minutes of talking with me, I asked her if she’d mind if I’d walk with her to the Lehman College campus, and she said it was O.K.. I then turned around and we then began walking together down the hill and onto the Lehman College campus.

Eileen was apparently still feeling that something was lacking intellectually, and from a feminist point of view, in her traditional relationship with Vinnie, the guy she was still living with. And, like me, she apparently also felt spring fever from the beautiful Spring afternoon in May.

So by the time we arrived on the Lehman College campus, Eileen was more into hanging out with me outside on the campus lawn in front of the library and the classroom buildings than into spending the beautiful day inside the library working on a term paper. And after sitting close to each other on the lawn for awhile while conversing in the same kind of intense way we had talked with each other when we had first met in the Lehman College cafeteria a few weeks before, we both realized that we were starting to feel some mutual love vibes.

So after she started touching me on my back and shoulder in a fond way with her hands, I was soon lying stretched out on my back on the campus lawn with my head resting in her lap, as she stroked my long hair in an affectionate way. A John Lennon fan who passed Eileen and me by at that time would probably have been reminded of the album cover of a then-recently-released John Lennon vinyl album, in which the album cover was a photograph of Lennon and Yoko Ono sitting under a tree together, and on which Lennon had recorded his classic “Working-Class Hero” protest folk song.

My next memory is then walking with Eileen from Lehman College’s campus later in the afternoon south on Jerome Avenue, until we got to a Jahn’s Restaurant, where we each ate an ice cream sundae, while continuing our intense conversation, oblivious to everyone else around us in the restaurant. Despite the fact that it was now getting late in the afternoon and Eileen was expected to be home by the evening in order to cook dinner for Vinnie, Eileen, surprisingly, expressed an interest in checking out my apartment, after we had finished eating our ice cream sundaes at Jahn’s Restaurant. So we then started walking east on Fordham Road until we arrived inside my apartment.

Although the only furniture inside my 1 ½ room apartment were two mattresses on the floor, a small table and a few boxes, Eileen seemed impressed by the fact that the rent for my then rent-controlled hippie pad was still less than $60 per month in the Spring of 1971. And after checking out the lay-out of the pad, Eileen sat down next to me on one of the mattresses that was on the floor of my living room-bedroom.

A few minutes later, she suddenly started to kiss me for a few minutes in a passionate way; and we both realized that we could also be attracted to each other on a sexual level , if we let ourselves go—and if she weren’t still involved with Vinnie. But since she had to get home that evening to make dinner for Vinnie and we were both reluctant to get any closer to each other on a physical level as long as she was living with Vinnie, we soon started to pull away from each other.

Eileen then stood up and said quietly: “I have to go now, but can I have your phone number--so I can sometimes call you?”

“Sure,” I replied, as I stood up myself. Then I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper and wrote down my first name and phone number on the piece of paper. And a few minutes later, we left my apartment and started walking together towards a bus stop on Fordham Road, where Eileen could catch a bus to drop her off at the Fordham Road D train subway stop, where she could then catch the subway train that would take her back home.

After we arrived at the Fordham Road bus stop, we did not have to wait very long before Eileen’s bus to the D train arrived, since it was still rush hour on a weekday. And I then waved goodbye to Eileen, as she got on the crowded bus.

Since Eileen was already living with Vinnie—and, from the way Eileen had described him, I did not get the sense that he was the type of guy who wouldn’t get uptight if a guy he didn’t know telephoned the woman he lived with at their home—I did not bother to ask for Eileen’s telephone number. And I was doubtful that Eileen would actually ever telephone me when, after a few days, she realized that telephoning me when Vinnie wasn’t around might start to eventually complicate her already apparently shaky relationship with a guy like Vinnie. But after Eileen got on the bus and I returned to my apartment, I did write a love song for Eileen, titled “Ms. Eileen,” which contained the lyric “And I hope that you’ll kiss me, Ms. Eileen,” which described Eileen’s inner beauty and why I felt attracted to her, from a male feminist point of view.

Surprisingly, a few weeks later I did receive a telephone call from Eileen. But, by that time, the money I had saved from the Writers Guild office boy job that I had quit nearly two months before had nearly vanished. And I now only had enough bread left to pay my rent for June 1971, barely enough left to feed myself and my kitten until June 1971. Also, I had been forced to shave my beard off and get a haircut again, in order to start hunting for a 9-to-5 job again.

So when Eileen telephoned me, I was now in a much more visibly embittered and angry mood than I had been when I had last seen her on the beautiful Spring afternoon and Eileen—not yet being as politically revolutionary in her feelings as I was, despite her developing radical feminist perspective—did not really yet feel the working-class anger I felt at being forced to choose between either 9-to-5 wage slavery again or—if I couldn’t find a job or couldn’t become eligible for the home relief for single individuals that the New York City welfare department still officially provided in 1971—death by economic impoverishment or starvation.

But, ironically, after our philosophical and political differences suddenly became apparent to each other during our phone conversation, Eileen suddenly laughed and said: “You know, before I called you I was thinking I might want to move in with you. But now I see it would never work out.”

I also laughed and replied: “Yeah. Don’t think I’d be able to offer you much in the way of companionship until I get my bread situation together again, so that I can keep coming up with the rent money each month.” And a few seconds later, we said goodbye to each other over the telephone.

I felt somewhat surprised that Eileen’s emotional dissatisfaction with Vinnie had apparently increased so much that the possibility of moving into my slum apartment with me so soon was actually something she had even considered. But given my immediate money and economic survival worries at the time she telephoned, I realized that living with Vinnie—especially since he apparently wasn’t the kind of guy who would ever beat her—was still probably a much wiser thing for Eileen to do than leaving Vinnie and then finding herself now sharing my economic misery with me on a daily level, by moving in with me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xvii)

Bumping into Earl and then having lunch with Earl reminded me that I had not checked out the scene inside the Richmond College glass tower on St. George Street in Staten Island at all during the 1970-1971 academic year. So one day in late April 1971 I hopped on a D train, and then transferred at 59th Street to the IRT local subway train that took you to the South Ferry station stop. Then I paid my nickel--or by that time it may have been a quarter--to get on the Staten Island ferry. And after the ferry docked at the Staten Island ferry terminal, I walked into the building of the experimental CUNY college on Staten Island for juniors, seniors and mostly ed majors or teachers who were obtaining their needed master's degree in education credits from Richmond College.

After taking the elevator to the floor on which the student cafeteria was located, I immediately spotted a few of my old hippie-left friends from the Richmond College Social Change Commune that I had been a part of there in the Spring of 1969, sitting around one of the cafeteria tables. Dan, a bearded and long-haired Irish-American anti-war rebel leftist, who always wore a Che Guevara-type beret, was there along with others. But by the Spring of 1971, Dan and my other old friends at the cafeteria table had pretty much given up any hope that revolutionary left change was possible in the United States in the 1970s. And they all explained to me that "partying and bull-shit" was pretty much all that the students at Richmond College were now into in 1971. No one was even bothering to pass out any anti-war leaflets to students at Richmond College or to set up any counter-cultural New Left political meetings or campus events with celebrity left speakers in the Spring of 1971, like we all had done in the Spring of 1969, as part of the legendary Richmond College Social Change Commune.

In the Richmond College cafeteria in late April 1971 I also bumped into one of the hip, bearded professors who used to hang out with us in the Ricmond College Social Change Commune's classroom in the the Spring of 1969; and who used to push the white left-liberal middle-class academic left political line that "cultural revolution and anti-consumerism is good" but "New Left-led anti-imperialist political revolution" or "New Left student activism which disrupted the U.S. university system" is "going too far"--without ever revealing that he was being paid over $25,000 a year in 1969 by CUNY when most of his working-class students were still lucky to find jobs that paid over $7,500 a year after they graduated in 1969.

Yet when we noticed each other as I walked by the cafeteria table where he was eating lunch smugly with some less politically radical and more morally smug professors, he said to me: "How are you? You know we miss you around here. It's much duller politically around here now and getting to be like student life was in the 1950s again."

I also noticed an old womanfriend named Helene in the student cafeteria, whom I hadn't seen since we had smoked some hashish alone together in her Staten Island apartment about a year and a half before. She still looked as physically attractive as a Hollywood movie actress like Jane Fonda did in the early 1970s and we smiled and laughed when we said "hello" to each other again. But since we both realized that our philosophical views and current interests were probably still too different for us to be close friends over the long haul, we only chatted briefly with each other before I left the Richmond College glass tower building and headed back to my cheap, slum apartment in the Bronx.

But because I used to write agitational columns for the school newspaper at Richmond College that presented a radical New Left analysis of the current historical situation during the 1968-1969 academic year, I ended up mailing down to the student newspaper a Spring 1971 column in which I criticized the middle-class academic left "professoriat" at Richmond College for discouraging its students from disrupting the U.S. university system around anti-imperialist demands; and criticized--perhaps in too much of a left-sectarian way--the Richmond College academic left professors for being too chained to their jobs to really want to work for or to see a Black Panther Party-led or a revolutionary feminist-led, anti-imperialist Revolution in the United States in the 1970s.

I also verbally put-down--in perhaps too left-sectarian a way-- the students at Richmond College in the Spring of 1971 who were just into "partying and bull-shit" when the Pentagon was still waging its unjust war in Vietnam, Black Panther Party activists were still being assassinated or jailed on trumped-up charges by the Nixon Administration's law enforcement agents, anti-war Weatherfugitives were still being hunted by the FBI, the majority of U.S. working-class people were still being forced to be 9-to-5 wage slaves in skyscraper offices or in factories to obtain the money they needed to pay their rents and mortgages or purchase their food supplies, and the majority of U.S. women were still being treated as second-class citizens within a racist, imperialist, sexist and patriarchal capitalist society in 1971.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Freewheelin' In The Bronx 1971 (xvi)

During the Spring of 1971 I also bumped into Earl one evening, while getting off one of the subway trains at one of the IRT elevated stations in the Bronx. Two years before, Earl had ben the head of Richmond College's African-American student group on Staten Island. Although his politics were less revolutionary than those of the Black Panther Party activists in 1969, Earl was a friendly guy who was militant politically--in terms of just wanting a greater share of the U.S. imperialist and U.S. capitalist pie. In 1969, Earl dressed in a dashiki, but when we bumped into each other on the IRT subway platform two years later Earl was now dressed in a dress shirt, a suit and a tie; and he looked much straighter culturally.

But despite his less hip-looking appearance, Earl was still as friendly as ever. And, with a big smile, he handed me his business card and also invited me to stop by his office in Midtown Manhattan that week, so we could go out to lunch together.

After graduating from Richmond College, Earl had also apparently been able to avoid the draft like me. But, unlike me, Earl had then landed a good-paying job as one of the Bankers Trust personnel managers who interviewed job applicants in the Bankers Trust personnel office. A few days after bumping into Earl, I actually did go into Midtown Manhattan to stop by his office and get together with him for lunch. But although Earl was still very friendly {despite the fact that I was dressed much more casually than all the other people who were waiting to be interviewed by Earl when he returned from lunch), I felt that Bankers Trust was really better able to now offer him the kind of lifestyle he was now seeking in 1971 than the New Left Movement that I had been a part of and still identified with could offer him.

By the Spring of 1971, Earl felt it was impractical and unrealistic to assume that any kind of Black Panther Party-led revolution was going to happen in the United States in the 1970s. And although he recognized that the rich white bankers who controlled Bankers Trust were using him to divert attention from the degree to which Bankers Trust was still an institutionally racist organization, in terms of its employment policies and banking practices, Earl felt he had little choice but to play along with Bankers Trust in order to earn enough money--and obtain enough economic security--to insulate himself from the economic consequences of U.S. racism. And in order to live the middle-class family-oriented lifestyle, in either New York City or in the suburbs, which Earl's poverty-stricken parents had not been able to obtain, and which Earl now wanted. So after we said goodbye to each other in a friendly way, I never did bump into Earl again.