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.