Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Distractions from the Holy Rollers

I guess I am a bit done with the television news. I mean what does this North Korea thing mean in the end? I am not talking about the lava shits that many in the diplomatic community get when a “third world” country gets the bomb. I am not even talking about a militarized Japan, which I personally am all for becomes times have changed; and, they should never have been demilitarized to the point of almost being castrated with China and her many reincarnations spinning to the North. Not that China will attack Japan, but China does effect so much that goes on around her who knows what their influence may bring. When I question what this all means, I am not talking about non-aggression treaties and pacts or the current “do nothings” and oval office eggheads. I am talking about this collective hysteria. The pundits are saying that the sky is falling. It is not like we can invade, and any humanitarian mission is going to dwarf what we are doing in Iraq and what we have failed to do in Dafur. We don’t even know how bad it is. Are we really ready? Has it ever been really a problem we could solve realistically? Alone?

So, with that and Foleygate I started to read Little Joe Superstar, The Films of Joe Dallesandro by Michael Ferguson. Not a bad read at all. I want to explore it a bit more because there are some very interesting encounters with black people in the telling of Joe Dallesandro’s life. Granted I have not seen one of his films, only the iconography of his photographic history. And in the end, I have not really thought much of Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. It simply was not a reference for me; I have never understood anything about it. From Nashville, Tennessee, we looked for our information about the world in New York boroughs and DC go-gO. And when I got to Hampton, that was re-enforced, probably in ways that were not too positive for its cloistered views of art and sexuality, but not its Brownstonepolitik and innovative uses for Philly Blunts.

Lately, I have been thinking more about Andy Warhol’s Factory and its effect on the New York art scene because I know that I did not know what New York City really was when I arrived in 1993. I was one of the first sets of interns to work at Vibe, and when I was there I was surrounded by a whole group of kids from the East Coast, and Seven Sisters schools. All of them thought of the Beats as ancient and Frank Zappa as god. And there I was at a hip hop magazine surrounded by these confident somewhat privileged fresh from college former Bostonians or Vassar sojourns and I could not tell you one Grateful Dead song (I thought they were some venomous devil worshipping band) nor did I think Lou Reed anything special. Talking Heads and Blonde were additives to UTFO and Roxanne Shante. White folk in a hip-hop magazine soon proved to be less odd as contributors to the glam. I soon was to wonder how to get the oh so Hilton Als of it, to be more New Yorker than New York Magazine, more club kid than house, more innovative anthropologist of Negro norms than grassroots. Soon, my true self would betray me and the lesson of what you imitate must be eventually learned became my capital life lesson of the 90’s. Till this day I look at Andre Tally and think what a flux, what a beautiful project, what a New Yorker. The sin is that I have not read anything by him.

Anyway, I have come to the realization that I missed something vital by not becoming fluent in signs and parole of 14th street to Houston, 6th Avenue to Thompson Square Park. As a friend of mine used to say in Harlem psycho-faggot speech, “That’s the piece that's missing.” Because I did not know anything about that world I was unable to communicate with the members of the intelligentsia that were talking and writing about rock and rap music. I don’t think that it helped or hindered things concerning my career, I believed that the people at Vibe were a little of their rockers. Time and assassinations would unfortunately prove that to me and other writers. I just could have understood my surroundings better and a certain tradition that I did not understand when I first came in. I could have been enriched by it a bit more if I was not so segregated in my thoughts concerning race and what was useful (and little did I know, the nefarious term “useful” was soon to be transformed into canonical catatonic mantras of theoretical truth and consequences for those that could utter it and the heretics that didn’t bend it like Homi Babba at NYU).

Fresh from a HBCU, my college experience was devoid of such mentioning. Warhol was a heretic. A white gay man that looked like death warmed over was one thing, the fact that he was not connected to the Great Debates nor was he seen as advancing black folk was another. Were there any black folk in his gaze? I am sure there was one or two in an early movie. I am sure that there is a black ass poking out of some Polaroid, expose and glistening against a burnt orange back drop bright like a gum drop or Diana Ross in Central Park. I am sure that Grace Jones and Andy got along well. But the truth of the matter is that my kind of black folk at that time dismissed Diana since she killed Flo (well before the umpteenth white man she dated caused Ebony to shiver) and Grace was OVAH regardless of that little frigidity mop head monster that seemed to prance his kind of ugly like a goddess. In the mist of all this gazing at the image I missed the point somehow.

I walk down the East Village now and mourn its demise. I remember when it was a scary place, and I remember when I and my friends hung out there. We could afford to live there if we were willing to eat peanut butter and crackers. Now we can’t even afford that. I have an old mentor that is there, but she seems to be sadder and harder. Part of it is the profession of writing, working and teaching. The other part of it is the world that she sees around her in her rent controlled Manol Bonik riot. She commented once that during the last blackout there was not one broken window, just yuppies sitting on steps with light candles and sipping wine. It broke her heart, and maybe as a child of the city who has matured into a lioness of esteemed and delicate intellectual certainties this broken city is sliding away block by block is turning her into stone. In my mind she is becoming the angel Bethesda meandering on where to bury the oracle in St. Mark’s.

All that said I want to save my observations concerning black folk and Joe Dallesandro (D’Alessandro). He was poor and grew up a foster child until he was re-united with his father at the age of 14, but his descriptions of black folk is an interesting study. This hidden world is nondescript in his confessions. Black folk seem flat and almost like adornments. Kind of like “And the black girls sing/ Doooh-Doo-Doo—Doo-Doo—Doo-Doo-Dooh” Or however it goes. <BR>“This Hidden World”, it sounds like a song to me. Something torchlight and Dinah Washington.

This is to be continued.

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