Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
In today's New York Times the City Room carries a post ab0ut a bar in Hell's Kitchen, Rudy's, on 9th Ave. between West 44th and 45th, that serves free hot dogs with drinks.
It’s the free hot dogs that got my attention. Just out of the Navy in December, 1960, I soon turned 21. Weber’s Tavern was just around the corner from my house on Court House Place in Jersey City. Weber’s was on the NE corner of Baldwin and Newark Avenues. The magnificent Hudson County Court House was on the SW corner of the same intersection. It has been restored and every once in a while a television program will film there.If you stood in Weber's doorway and looked diagonally across the intersection, you would see the Court House as it appears above.
Artie Weber would serve free lunch every weekday. He would make sandwiches and pile them high on two large trays placed at either end of the bar. The sandwiches would vary. One day he might have cheese sandwiches, another day baloney, and then some days spiced ham. Others too, just can’t recall right now. White bread and two or three slices of the cold cut d’jour if I remember correctly. Beer was 10 cents a glass. Weber’s beer was an ounce less than the standard glass. Still, it was a great beer. Rheingold, Schaffer, and Piels were the big guys on tap. Some would chastise the bartender if they had a ‘Coney Island’ head. Others would complain that there was no head. De gustibus non est disputandem. (Whiskey Sours were made correctly with a lovely head. Try and get a good one today. Frothee is still on the market but it just isn’t used much -long story)
At one point during the day, the bar would be two and sometimes three deep with standees behind those parked on the stools. Locals, including off duty cops and firefighters, jurors, lawyers (mostly public defenders), jurors, an occasional miscreant, and off duty bartenders from other taverns could be among those who would share the moment. Ironworkers, teamsters, and longshoremen might be there too if they didn’t make the shape or work was slack that day. Bookies, one and sometimes two, were also busy. Their condition had them using the bathroom frequently. Their activity was known by many and they were considered off limits in the tavern -safe from a collar. A gentleman’s agreement. The liquor salesmen who might stop by later were often ex fighters. In ‘Requiem for a Heavyweight’ Jack Palance had the voice of a man who took a lot of punches -had it cold. Try YouTube. But that's another story.
Some of the local old timers were pensioners and not too well off I would think. On occasion you might see one of them slip a sandwich (wax paper wrapped of course) into a suit jacket, or sport jacket pocket. You’d know they were going to do it and you watched from the corner of your eye. A sandwich for later. Fedoras and ties did these gentlemen wear. And the stories they could tell -if you asked.
Yes free sandwiches. And there was also a tradition called the ‘come back.’ Buy three beers and the next one would be on the house. A ‘good luck’ or a knock on the bar top by the bartender would accompany the freebee. Run it out: If you spent ninety cents for nine beers, you would get twelve beers. Every once in a while the bartender might give you a ‘come back’ after only two or even one drink that you paid for. Rarely was a forgetful or distracted bartender contradicted. That left a dime out of a dollar. That would be for the bartender. Hypothetical of course -most left the bartender more.
It was in Weber’s that four of us, watching and listening to the news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, decided to drive to Washington, DC. The line in DC was long. It was getting late. We stood and watched and thought of him and I know we each must have said a prayer. And then we went back home. Over time the 10 cent beer became 15 cents and all too soon the 15 cent beer became 20 cents. Things were never quite same again.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
(This morning President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. She lived in a Bronx housing project with her mother and brother.)
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Nazi's, neo-fascists, are all a bit the same ball of wax. Here's Wikipedia defining neo-fascism : "Neo-fascism usually includes nationalism, anti-immigration policies or, where relevant, nativism, anti-communism, and opposition to the parliamentary system and liberal democracy." Goring (above) come to mind? Limbaugh? Based upon what I have heard and seen of Limbaugh, I find it easy to picture him as Minister of Propaganda in a right wing, neo-fascist (I think I was just redundant here) state. One thing about the bozo Nazis -many think they had great uniforms. Some like Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, just didn't look good in a uniform. An ugly dude.
Yes, Limbaugh in a Nazi like uniform -easy to see. Tailored to fit his robust frame, the hat a remembrance of Nixon's idea of what White House police should be wearing -anyone remember that? Yes there he is, our man Limbaugh: full out in boots, Buster Brown belt, a riding crop, short arms, medals, etc. (Sorry Patton) and the rest of a stunning panoply of regalia intended to excite a fawning group of right wing ideologues so focused on following the ranting sound of piper Limbaugh they fail to see the edge the cliff. When I hear someone say that they like and listen to Limbaugh, I know much of what I really need to know about that person.
And Republicans are very careful not offend him lest other Republicans take offense. Mea culpas abound. All hail the party!
Limbaugh was called on his radio show this week by an irate Republican who accused him of being a brainwashed Nazi because he advocated torture. The caller, a former Marine and Army veteran, told him this was not Nazi Germany and asked Limbaugh if he remembered the Nuremberg Trials.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Bunning and the Specter
Ginsburg lives long and Bunning runs
Toward a specter ringing a bell
"The bell, the bell, for whom, for whom does it toll?
Is it Ginsburg?"
The specter stops and darkly turns,
"Why my bell is rung for you, for you.
Come as you are.
For Ginsburg travels a different road;
It's length not known by you.
And the music heard along its way
Is never heard by those
Who, chasing the sound of my bell
Republican U.S. Senator Jim Bunning predicted over the weekend that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsburg would likely be dead from pancreatic cancer within nine months. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported:
During a wide-ranging 30-minute speech on Saturday at the Hardin County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning said he supports conservative judges "and that's going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg ... has cancer."
"Bad cancer. The kind that you don't get better from," he told a crowd of about 100 at the old State Theater.
"Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer," he said.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
Friday, January 2, 2009
Poets, lawyers, and politicians, many of them I would think, successful ones, manifest a certain gravitas and likability. Gravitas? Several years ago political and social pundits were tripping over themselves in an effort to say gravitas first, or second, or third on the Sunday morning television news panels. The word is less heard still gravitas remains an element critical to a candidate's image. A stump speech, a formal speech, or impromptu banter are all enhanced when the speaker possesses this gravitas yet quickly is able to join it with wit. Gravitas sounds somewhat serious, so sober. But it is a bit of that. Yes gravity and...likability. Huckabee has it. Obama has it. Others don't. (Having said that, I think Hillary looked and sounded great on SNL during the campaign.)
James Michael Curley, a Mayor of Boston, was known for his oratory. When he campaigned his neck size increased so much that he needed a shirt with a larger collar. He was essentially a jump up street urchin who learned the hard way how to take the vote. Yes take. He learned to quote from literature and poetry. He might not have read the book but he was able to quote from it, make his point, and by inference his audience might consider him well educated. Poetry and literature were in his bag and well he used those clubs. (I golf). Abraham Lincoln. Imagine listening to him! To have been at Gettysburg, to have been at one of his debates with Douglas. A politician who aspires to high office or an ambitious lawyer would do well to study great speeches and continually study the art of debate. Although debating and attendant rhetorical skills are important and can be learned, gravitas and likability cannot.
Poets, politicians and lawyers (and their campaigners) leave us with unforgettable words:"Tippecanoe and Tyler too!", "I like Ike", "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit!" The poet? Well, as someone must win and someone must lose, look to Whittier who left us with "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been."
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It was 1961, and Dylan played at the “Café Wha?” In Greenwich Village. My sister and her girlfriend were going to be at the Wha? to read some poetry they had written. We were less than half an hour away and Brian and I would check the Village out every once in a while. Knowing my sister would be at the Wha?, we checked it out. It was a coffee house and did not serve alcohol. My sister and her friend didn’t read their poetry yet and there was a performance going on; a guitar was probably part of what was going on. It was a while ago. Was Dylan there? Could have been but I don’t know and it would have been meaningless to me anyway. Like others he was just an unknown guy looking to play gigs. (I was in Asheville recently and that city really did remind me of the Village the way it was back then.) The Wha? Wasn’t the biggest place in the world-kind of small. This was not a doo wop environment which was my comfort zone. Interest in the Wha? I would guess was a bit of east coast wonderment at the west coast beatnik and flower power cultures. Some people couldn’t quite nail it down-that is, just what was going on then. I was one of those. I think it was rear view mirror kind of thing. It went by and only when you looked back did you realize what it was. Today I can listen to Dylan and enjoy him because I’ve learned to pay more attention to the lyrics. You can hear Dylan sing Boots and think of someone in Iraq.
Husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, all of you, full of life and joy and wanting elusive and changing morrows, oh that your loved ones were present birds such as Romeo wished he were and that they had never left home. Distant changing morrows yield too frequent tears. Tears….
Forfend they come through Dover. Some come home early may pass through this place, unseen coffins en masse (no photographs said the Decider) of the debacle far away, the crime thus far of this young century. Those brave young lovers who pass through Dover, unable anymore to love in life, unable to share a sweet morrow with a lover, will always be in the hearts of their lovers and loved ones. And too there will be those tears -tears heartbreaking, gut wrenching, and inadequate. “Everybody Loves a Lover” sang Peggy Lee. And do we do. And we too cry.
Frank Sinatra sang a song about young lovers but not written in the context of war. Rodgers and Hammerstein captured a sense joy about young lovers and we might think of it as we think of our loved ones in Iraq. Sinatra expresses empathy and compassion. Change a word or phrase if you want (I will later) but the original lyrics convey to me this sense of caring and concern. I heard it the other night and thought immediately of our brave young in Iraq. Sometimes a melody or lyrics will take you to a place not intended by the singer or lyricist. Too, I thought of an earlier war and how it resolved with many dead loved ones-many dead lovers forever lost to their loves. He begins:
Hello young lovers whoever you are/I hope your troubles are few/All my good wishes go with you tonight/I’ve been in love like you
Be brave young lovers and follow your star/Be brave and faithful and true/Cling close to each other tonight/I’ve been in love like you
Not too many years later, Muhammad Ali, who by self- proclamation was known as “The Greatest”, wrote poetry:
Clean out my cell
And take my tail to jail
‘cause better to be in jail fed
Than in Vietnam, dead
It too was an unpopular war. The draft was in effect. He went to jail for a while and he lost his right to fight-for a while. And so wars go on and lovers are separated-for a while.
America grieves for sons and daughters lost in war regardless of the war’s cause or purpose. Comments on the debacle in Iraq require sensitivity to those who believe that lives lost are lives that were lost because of a justified war. To question the necessity of the war could be considered as saying the lives lost were wasted. Borrowing from Hammerstein America plaintively speaks:
Hello young lovers wherever you are.
I hope your troubles are few.
All my good wishes
Go with you tonight
I’ve been in a war before
Be brave young lovers and follow your star
Be brave and faithful and true
Cling close to each other tonight
I’ve been in a war like you
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
She just knows the wee nubbin out there is Russia.
I've been subscribing to the New Yorker, off and on, for years. I kept a cover that was a cartoon map of the United States from a New Yorker's perspective. It is in a box in an attic. It is torn here and there. Well it turned out the cover was very popular indeed. It became the basis for a shower curtain and was sold by the New Yorker for years. It still may be.
Looks like I have another keeper coming in the mail. A "Palin's Perspective" shower curtain?
Sunday, September 21, 2008
It wants 800 billion ephemera*!
I’m reading about Palin and the wrecked economy on the Huffpost and there’s a movie “Mars Attacks” on too. Yes, I’m a Democratic elitist. The info screen says “It’s up to a handful of brave-but-zany goofy survivors to stop the onslaught.” Glen Close, Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, etc. are part of an ensemble cast; the movie was released in ’96. You might need to see it to appreciate this.
I drifted off. In my reverie a bunch of nasty Republicans have destroyed the economy and blame the people of earth (mostly American taxpayers). Their army, they call it the core, unleashes battalions of unibrow fundamentalists and southern racists advancing the flag of Sarah Palin, now Queen of the Unibrows, and Mumbles McSame who are dedicated to defeating a black candidate, a nice guy, seeking the highest office in the land. This is war. Security has been doubled at Saint Regan’s sepulcure at Valhalla.
Throughout all of this, the Republicans constantly play “Onward Christian Soldiers” which really gets the core going. Democrats counter with “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” which drives the Republicans nutty and they implode as they eat their young.
I woke up remembering most of what I dreamed. At the end, Obama and Biden were holding the key to the White House and a bag with an IOU stating “IOU 800 Billion ephemera* –get it off the taxpayers. Ha! Ha!” (signed) George Bush.
Friday, September 12, 2008
You wouldn't want to accuse either McCain or Palin of glossing over the facts for fear of their considering that they have been maligned by another reference to lipstick.
Can there be any doubt that we are looking at a ticket headed up by right wingers whose allegances are not with the common man and woman? I'd suggest that McCain and Palin express an obtuse understanding of this nation's living history that is counter to America's best interests, to our best interests. Being a war hero, being a governor,being a woman, being a man, being a mayor, being a senator, are nothing less than punch holes on a ticket that some would hope gives them entre to the highest office. The punch holes are meaningless if the bearers are, as the saying goes, intellectually dishonest.
In the current New York Review of Books, Andrew Hacker reviews three books on the disenfranchisement of blacks in America. Titled "Obama, The Price of Being Black," his piece tells us of successful efforts by the right to make it very difficult if not impossible for many black people to vote.
Look around and find someone who will need to be registered to vote and help them to register. Haunt them. Drive them to the ballot box. Get out the vote!
And if one wants to bring God into all of this, then thank God for a free press.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Unfortunately, the memory of music fades, soon overcome by the elegiac droning of bushspeak and govbull. Change becomes much less a goal than an unwanted interruption to a comfortable status quo.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
This morning on "Morning Joe," Peggy Noonan expressed disdain over Barrack Obama's acceptance speech last night at the Democratic National Convention.
Noonan, Rhetoric, and Red Pigs.
I heard her. She only wishes she could have written it for Reagan. Rhetoric my butt. Isn't that what Reagan was about-rhetoric? Didn't Reagan read her rhetoric laden speeches?
Speeches she wrote for Reagan were delivered by a man who seemed to lack passion. Reagan the great orator was not that to me. I thought his delivery was wooden, hollow, Republicaneese wrapped in cliches and cute phraseology. Obama evidenced a passion never heard in Reagan. I hope he can achieve much of what he ambitions he might.
When Noonan had her problem with accusations of plagiarism, Imus graciously continued bringing her on his show. I listened and admired Imus for his constancy, believing Noonan and taking her at her word. I agree she probably did not do what she did intentionally. However, her evaluation of Obama's speech says much about her and, as she writes history, her negative comments seem worthy of at least a footnote in a history. I now know all I will ever, ever need to know of her.
Washington's a tough town with lots of little piggy's mucking about for a teat they can cling to for four years. It is the sows that need be kicked out of town. The piggys will follow. Pigs and sows dressed in red are the same nonetheless. I must say however (with an apology to Will Rogers), that I never met a blue pig I didn't like.
She does seem to have some redemptive quality about her. Her Regan worship irks most. (Added 03/01/09)
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Thoughts converge on recent articles that have a common thread or two. Your column, "On Going Where Nothing Will Be the Same As It Used To Be" had me refer to these and I refer you to them.
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21210: In "Finding a Lost Prince of Bohemia" Robert Danton writes of bohemian culture in Paris and other cities. The essay will be included in to be published "Les Bohemiens." Gypsies ( I think of your column here and elsewhere) are mentioned. A great piece of history this. It is online and the New York Review of Books to which I subscribe is a source of continuing enjoyment. NYRB maintains much of what it has currently published online. The essays and book views are enriching.
The thread I see here is that a bohemian culture, the arts fine and performing, have a place to be or to go to. Ergo the old Bohemias and the new ones. Bohemias are always with us whether they be of the mind or a place. It is the disappearing (though reborn elsewhere perhaps) of places that I find troubling. Some American cities did not survive urban renewal. Some places, some possible Bohemias are lost forever.
http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2008/07/hitchens200807: Well know as an atheist and criticized for being opinionated, I enjoy his perspective. In a recent Vanity Fair (I tip the postman at Christmas for his heavy bag) Hitchens wrote "Last Call, Bohemia: Entertainment and Culture." He writes of the West Village and places I know of and have been to or a least driven by many times. I was born and raised in Jersey City just outside the Holland Tunnel and worked and partied in New York. Just through the tunnel were pieces of a larger Bohemia: The Cafe Wha (my sister read poetry there, Dylan played there), the White Horse (a Behan haunt for short time) wound up a few blocks away hanging around the "No Name Bar"-it was on the way (kind of) to and from the Holland Tunnel). Shaft was filmed there and a scene shot in the "No Name" is in the movie. Had a run in there with a guy named Featherstone from 'The Westies', a gang from Hell's Kitchen. Scary-another story.
At the No Name, enjoyed a scotch with Jason Robards, Jr. It was after hours and he lived across the street. This was before the accident; he was still drinking. His bodyguard was former Secret Service and he said he was with Kennedy in Dallas. He wrote two books, The Detail and The Fourth Man. He moved to Canada. Both books were published in England. He died in Canada where he moved. Haven't read the Fourth Man yet. Wilson McCarthy his name. Intriguing. He was Secret Service but I cannot find reference to him; I looked all over the internet. He seems to have disappeared. A U.K. site had the book, The Fourth Man, available for 40 some odd dollars. This for what would seem to be an inexpensive potboiler. Intriguing. I digress.
I always thought The Village was just something else. Went to grad school at NYU and did not like seeing older buildings being torn down. I could go on here quite a bit but I won't. The point here is that Hitchens is bringing our attention to a nasty bit of business in NYC wherein 7th Avenue is being realigned. The O'Toole bullding he mentions is a wondrous looking building. Its windows resemble the portals on ships. It's hard by St. Vincent's Hospital where Jersey City girls went to work and study. Not far away the Waverly Theater would show movies that were not seen in many other theaters in the United States. One was "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" remains a favorite. The ending has a special meaning. We went our own ways and she is gone now.
Bohemians might seem to be running out of places to be in common. They will always have a certain commonality of mind, but perhaps not one of place. Cities should preserve their storefronts and walkups. New high rise construction should include storefront occupancies and every effort should be made to promote and integrate the arts into urban renewal, into new development.
I am thinking of the Jersey City waterfront where we went skinny dipping in the '50's. It was a coal pier and right across from the undreamed of World Trade Center. In fact when the WTC was built, many small shops and homes were demolished. I worked too in Manhattan (the Home Insurance Company) and remember taking lunch down at the East River. I'd doff my shirt, tee, and tie and lay out on a pier in the summer. I ate lobster outside, on an outside counter of a corner seafood store. Sloppy Louie's was nearby (gone now) and of course this was all happening during the daytime when the Fulton Street Fish Market was asleep; it was fully awake at 0' dark thirty though and the area was transformed. What a sight. We would go to watch the mongers after closing time in the pubs. It is gone now too. It is now in Hunts Point where by coincidence the old produce market (worked there one night-enough) went years ago. The old market was in......the village.
A recent story in the Jersey Journal (Jersey City) spoke of the high cost of living in Jersey City and the need for less expensive housing for municipal employees. I won't digress on the horrible crime rate in the city and wish proponents luck. Jersey City was never demolished by urban renewal. There are housing projects and they are coming down (some have) and other kinds of housing will be built. Friendly housing. No more twenty story cages. Places for a Bohemia still exist. I ponder, we might be too close to Bohemia to realize we are in it.
Downtown, the city is alive with new places to eat and venues for the fine and performing arts. There seems to be more of them since I left 25 years ago. New Yorkers coming over in droves. I remember the city very well. Many storefronts are in place, ripe for young businesses. We had garrets, I know where there are still a few. The city is always having a discussion with builders who want more building and less retention of historical place.
I memorized the streets in my district. I walk the city in my thoughts. It was a great place to grow up. I wished my daughters could have experienced it. It's a long, very long story.
Anyway, I recommend the two articles to you. Hitchens by the way has prompted me to write a bit and idle thoughts may be found at http://painesense.blogspot.com/. I use Tom Paine as a nom de plume. Paine's writing was not, to the best of my memory, referred to in the Catholic schools I went to. I understand why. Talk about living a provincial life.
You mentioned Baldwin and Stein. When Baldwin went to Paris, he left a city, New York, that was always a bit of Paris. And Stein too could have had her salon in New York, still and always an attraction for artists and writers. Doubtless she had a leg up acquiring new art and meeting avant garde artists. Bohemia is important as a place, yet it is the bohemians who make it that place. Like gypsies, they will wander. Especially if their garrets are bulldozed or the rents go up. Make experiences a place to be. Cull the good from the bad; ditch the baggage; keep the suitcase. Have we not, some of us, a Bohemia of the mind?
Pictured above is Kiki by Mann Ray. She was know as the 'Queen of Montparnasse.' She was an artist, model, and cabaret singer who was the symbol of bohemian Paris. The Man Ray photo will be remembered in advertisements for the broadway play 'Oh Calcutta.'