I really want to get this going....

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Friday, September 26, 2008



'I didn't want for nothing because I never wanted nothing' was the way Leroy Archimedes put it to me (I called him that but his real name was Eddie Stark) but all he ever wanted to talk about was the Lever Brothers Building on Park Avenue and over time the whole idea of Lever Brothers and the Archimedes Screw and leverage and all that early geometry stuff got me to just calling him Leroy Archimedes and what the hell from what I'd learned he'd grown up half Black and half Puerto Rican in the area once known as San Juan Hill until it was all torn down for Lincoln Center and environs sometime about 1959 - he used to show me these pictures which were incredible and almost saddening in a way too - really powerful black and white shots of the old neighborhoods going down with boarded up tenements and old shacks and houses and they just actually came through in the late fifties and ripped it all away - tore the neighborhood to smithereens and displaced all the people into some other forms of ratty jumbled housing projects modern for the day but shitty by now or already torn down again - most of the those people are already dead or displaced over again two or three times so those in 'power' figure they wouldn't ever talk and if they did no one anymore would listen anyway and these pictures showed how the old street were just 'disappeared' to use an old communist phrase from Authoritarian Rule everywhere (yes yes even right here in the good old fucked up USofA one stinkhole of a pile of shit nowadays anyway) : and all those fools from the upper-echelons of Manhattan society you know just HAD to have their cultural bailiwicks wherever they were to be and anything in the way well too bad for that - Robert Moses and all his hoo-haw cadres of planners and engineers and enforcers and condemnors and everyone else on the take like him just penciling out whatever they didn't want and just red-lining whatever was in the way - they ripped apart and to shreds entire portions of New York City and these were parts and sections and streets that really meant something and had once had legacy and heritage and were places where people and families and kids lived and grew and just like Eddie Stark they lived with this loss and disruption the rest of their days - memories and pictures all that was left - remembering grandmas and grandpas and the old stoops on which they sat and the dark curtained living rooms in the walk-ups where the family came together for whatever holiday or gathering was underway - all gone and Eddie would say 'it wasn't like they replaced it with anything either - they just moved us aside so they could build plazas and lighting architecture and big halls and concert rooms and stuff that we'd never take part of anyway - even if we wanted they priced us out and none of us had ever had any money anyway and we weren't about to spend it for some red velvet seat in a high-class music hall built for others but it was all on our backs and then they wondered why people were angry and got violent and sore or turned to crime and disruption themselves' and I was sure I understood all that - Eddie had done some small time for petty larceny and robbery and things - nothing really horrible but the sort of stuff you just do when you're living on the streets and he to me was a sort of original NY 'displaced person' but unlike all those crazed and wandering post-war Europeans staggering over the upper westside and spending their days in intellectual consortiums or on upper Broadway median benches sorting out all life and philosophy together he was just merely a displaced poor half-Spic nobody running down his time in the maze and he knew it but there was a certain form of optimism to him too which always staggered me - like the idea of the Lever Brothers Building - all glass and steel and supposedly breakthrough modernist architecture - you'd think he'd hate it for pretty much the same reason and throw in 'corporate' reasons too but instead he loved that building - went to look at it often talked about it tried getting inside it as often as he could - I guess it always represented something to him maybe a successful version of tear-down and new building that he'd unsuccessfully lived through with Lincoln Center back then and all those streets in the 60's DURING the 60's (funny conundrum there) did draw in all the rich hoity-toity music and theater and opera types it was built for - windblown plazas and fountains and all that - Calder paintings and sculpture and wall hangings and murals and outdoor vistas with water spraying through back-lit walls of glass - it all was there and stayed filled with lines of ticket holders and box-seat subscribers and all those upper east-side and Park Avenue money-bags who frequented such places of 'cultural diversity' never knowing they real 'cultural diversity' was with all those bastards they'd thrown out of their houses and homes but it probably never dawned on them in their cocktail ventures to give any forethought or hindsight to what they were doing or had just done : 'miserable rich bastards are like that' Eddie had said and Eddie had a sister Carla I met once or twice - nothing like him much more subdued and fitted-for-home and she lived in this little joint in Brooklyn with a kid and a husband and even a dog and it all appeared to have worked out Ok for her no matter what the early years had done her husband was in some pipefitters local 1223 or somewhere and seemed to keep working local and steady on construction jobs and stuff and Eddie by contrast never did much work (figuring as how he knew me and how we hung around between things it should have already been clear - most of my people were indigents or starving artist types and you know how they say 'birds of a feather all flock together' or whatever it is POINT MADE) and whatever work he'd get he'd say 'I don't gott'a work mind you' as if excusing what he was doing - small time parking lot stuff or lifting and moving jobs - and his main thought was like so many others I'd meet that survival could be had by wits for this was after all New York City with things everywhere just waiting to be lifted or stolen or broken into or 'transferred' for it all was a veritable small-crime hoodlum's paradise if one could just first get over the burden of assaulting or getting into people's faces and being aggressive and all that - of course things sometimes went miserably bad and time had to be paid for that too but it was all in the cards and part of the mix and by it Eddie and so many others never really got hurt and did manage to survive - a certain 'fringe' economy like that hit me in the face once I realized it too was everywhere - in addition many many of these construction and demolition sites were goldmines for theft too - breaking and entering half-sundered places wherein some apartments nearby were still intact - easy to break into and easier to steal from - big-time stuff easy to trade off or get money for (there were literally rings of pawnshops and junkyards and stuff where anything could be traded off) and in its own small 1960's way it was a wonderful paradise of something for that sort of thing - we caught it too as it all slowly was dwindling away.


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