Saturday, December 28, 2013

David Ehrenstein presents ... "High School Madness," a chapter from Raised By Hand Puppets



     Hey, let’s rush ‘em” somebody said. It was typical autumn afternoon in 1961 on the Morningside Heights campus of New York City’s “High School of Music and Art,” and a group of us were engaged in our most beloved “prank” – “Rushing the Red Squad.” We would (almost instantaneously) form a pack and run up to the unmarked police car that was invariably parked in front of the building, yelling at the cops inside (some in uniform, some not). This would cause said cops to gun the car’s engine and take off down the street – to our considerable amusement. Then, roughly 10 to 15 minutes later the unmarked car and its cops would be back – parked in a different spot – to resume their activities, which consisted of taking pictures of students as they came and went from the building. The “Red Squad” was a permanent fixture of our lives, and my first exposure to the brand of government surveillance that Ron Paul-supporting cyber-spook Edward Snowden has with the help of “journalist” Glenn Greenwald turned into a “Major News Story” – for a spell. For what lay behind Glennzilla’s “scoop” was Standard Operating Procedure well before the ‘net was invented or Snowjob was born.

     Why were our pictures being taken? Simple. “Music and Art” was the home of the so-called “Red-Diaper babies;” the spawn of radical leftists of the immediate postwar era. One of our number, Mike Zagarell went on to run for Vice President in 1968 on the Communist Party ticket. Mike was a familiar figure on campus, always leaping about with leaflets devoted to one extreme left-wing cause or other – the most memorable of them warning about the coming U.S. invasion of Vietnam. Some of us were interested in what Mike had to say. Most of us weren’t. Yes we cared about “Politics” but a fortiori we were all about “Culture” – with as Capital a “C” as possible. In the chorus we reveled to music as varied as Orff’s “Catulli Carmina” and Brahms’ “a German Requiem” This was “The High School of Music and Art” after all. This was the cradle/context that opened me up to Breton, Sartre, Shakespeare, Leonard Bernstein James Purdy, Gavin Lambert and Jean-Luc Godard. The Catcher in the Rye and Siddhartha were also popular, but not taken quite so seriously. We were primed for more adventurous fare to match our adventurous emotions. Laura Nyro (then Negron) was a classmate. “M&A” was the site of my first (de rigueur unrequited) love. “Un” only in the sense that he enjoyed kissing me, and nothing more “Strange twilight urges” blossomed like flowers in springtime as I discovered the stealth ménage a trois of Jeff, Bob and Marty, whose modes and manners seemed to me at the time to be conquering the front lines of the “homoerotic.” But as we were teenagers this was largely “pose” rather than “position papers.”

     The only trouble I ever encountered on this sexual score was from a fellow African-American, who one day walking up the hill to school called me a “Faggot!” and punched me in the stomach. I was astonished I didn’t know this kid personally at all. But as asked him why he hit me he became terrified. What was going on was clear. He was gay himself, and fearful of that fact took out his self-loathing on me. Happily it was a discreet incident. He never launched a repeat attack. Au contraire he regarded me with not inconsiderable fear, poor bunny. Fear wasn’t part of the school curriculum. After all we were students at what the late great “Firesign Theater” would lovingly refer to as “Communist Martyrs High.” We feared no man – least of all the men of the “Red Squad.” What ever became of those pictures? They doubtless went into files that were being created for the delectation of the FBI and its closet queen boss J. Edgar Hoover. We were “subversives” that needed “looking after” much like New York’s Muslim community is monitored by the “Red Squad’s” successor today. When the Vietnam war Mike Zagarell had warned us about began in earnest the mini-protest he stage metastasized into a massive protest movement involving hundreds of thousands of young people who prior to this had never been involved in politics before. At “M& A” we had no expectation the “Red Squad” would physically assault us. The same couldn’t be said of those who witnessed the violence the Chicago police unleashed on anti-war protesters at h 1968 Democratic National Convention. And when on May 4, 1970 when the Ohio National Guard fired on unarmed student protesters at Kent State University, killing four and wounding nine others (one of who suffered permanent paralysis) all bets were off. This horror had its sequel on May 14 in a similar massacre at the African-American dominated Jackson State College in Jackson Mississippi where two were killed and twelve injured. Happily such government-sponsored slaughter didn’t become the rule, stateside. Overseas we had our army do the dirty work – or the “death squads” of our “allies” (particularly in Latin America.) Americans, with a few exceptions (eg. Fred Hampton), were “safe” More or less.

     Back in the early 90s I was hauled off an RTD bus in broad daylight, handcuffed and thrown to the ground with a revolver placed against my temple by a pair of police officers who had apparently “mistaken” me for a much shorter, much darker man. A few years later I had another “unfortunate” run-in with ‘the authorities” though this time race was not involved. A pair of Secret Service agents accompanied by members of the LAPD (gun drawn bien sur ) came knocking (loudly) at my door. They were inquiring about “threats” I had allegedly made to then President George W. Bush. Mystified by the charge as I had done no such thing, I discovered in our resultant doorway conversation (I refused to allow these people access to my apartment) that they were referring to a comment I had made in an internet chat room that was reported to them by the wingnut website “Free Republic.” It was quotation from Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II: “Remove their heads and let them preach upon poles for trespass of their tongues.” I was referring not to President Bush but the “Mainstream” media. Once my antagonists were informed of that fact – and who Christopher Marlowe was – they went away. Being that I had already experienced surveillance from high school on, as I was a member of the anti-war movement and a gay activist, these intrusions were par for the course. But this lesson learned “outside of class” wasn’t the only one my “M & A” years contextualized. There was also a clandestine love story.

     One early afternoon in 1970 I was walking toward The Ramble in Central Park (for a little al fresco action) when I heard someone call out my name. I turned and saw a man pulling himself out of Central Park lake and rushing up towards me. It was the area of the lake near the boat house so it was rather shallow, but what he was doing in the lake (Fall? Pushed? Deliberately jumped in?) I never learned. That’s because Steve was talking too fast for me to ask any questions. Average height, “stocky” (but in no way fat) Steve was the classic “Hail Fellow Well Met.” He was always smiling at school. Always talking amiably to all and sundry. The smile and the amiability were still there but what he was talking to me about – in a massive torrent of words – wasn’t something to smile about He was talking about Nelson. The seeming opposite of Steve, Nelson was the Great Beauty. Chilly, removed, always speaking in a voice a few shades above a whisper his noli me tangere was both off-putting and alluring. Ever so many girls had thrown themselves at him recklessly – to no avail. None of the boys so much as tried. That he knew Steve at all save by sight astonished me. But as Steve explained it he knew Nelson not only personally but Biblically. Why did I not see this going on right under my nose? But then nobody else did either. Had that been the case the gossip would have been non-stop. I can just imagine Marty Fulterman (who invariably took me aside in the Boys’ Room for “the latest” about whoever) getting wind of this. But he didn’t. And the wind was quite intense. For while Steve wanted to go on forever Nelson wanted to get married to a woman. He did. And Steve told me about showing up at the wedding, pleading with him to change his mind and being dragged off screaming in protest.

     And then as soon as he’d appeared Steve was gone – never to be seen or heard from by me ever again. Why did he choose me? Hell, what was he doing in the lake? There’s a song that explains it by Al Dubin and Joe Burke.

“This life's a play from the start,

It's hard to play thru a part,

When there's an ache in your heart all day

I have my dreams 'til the dawn,

I wake to find they are gone,

But still the play "must go on" they say.

When I pretend I'm gay

I never feel that way,

I'm only painting the clouds with sunshine.

When I hold back a tear

To make a smile appear,

I'm only painting the clouds with sunshine

Painting the blues beautiful hues,

Colored with gold and old rose;

Playing the clown,

Trying to drown

All of my woes;

Tho' things may not look bright

They'll all turn out alright

If I keep painting the clouds with sunshine.”



Bonus feature






*

p.s. Hey. This weekend we get an incredible treat in the form of an exclusive preview of eminent writer of innumerable stripes plus d.l. David Ehrenstein's legendary memoir, years in the gestating and writing. It's full of David's consummate gifts at their very finest, and I hope you will enjoy the treasure. Thank you so very kindly, David. ** les mots dans le nom, Hi. Wonderful thoughts about writing, Celan, Bonnefoy, thank you. It was a joy to read and think about. I love small books, so that sounds perfect, and thanks for the mailing troubles. I know how that is. Ha ha, that cat bed. Not being much of a cat person, I think it would look even more great with a loaf of bread in it. ** Allesfliesst, I don't think anything Muppets would help me get into them. Their thing defies me. Humor is so delicate a transmitter. I'm no fan at all of NYE, never have been. I don't like parties, and I don't drink much or drink much when I do, and a metro system packed with drunks is not a fairytale for me, so the event's charms are elsewhere. If something is going on here that night, I might attend. Might go see the fireworks over the Eiffel Tower. Meh, but that's usually what I do that night if I do anything. Who knows? Never say never to nothing, I guess. ** David Ehrenstein, Thank you again so much, David. What a book this memoir is so clearly going to be! ** Sypha, Hi, James. Thanks for the Muppets link. I tried. I like Vincent Price. He made me wish it was a solo performance. But, you know, I like(d) the kid stuff things I grew up with like Bullwinkle and Captain Kangaroo and all of that, so yeah. It was a very good year for music, I totally agree! ** _Black_Acrylic, Cool about the completed script. Ah, you'll start it the day I go to Japan. Maybe that simultaneity is a good luck sign for both of us. It sure sounds like an exciting new chapter for you. I don't see how it can't be. ** Steevee, Hi. Great, thanks for the link to your top ten. Really nice list. I agree with you on almost all of the bunch of them that I've seen too. Very nice typo then. Everyone, I think you want to help complete your year in culture by clicking this and reading Steevee's Top Ten Plus films of 2013. ** Grant maierhofer, Likewise on the great to speak with you again thing. Yeah, 'THEM" is a great project, and really happy to add a little light to its existence. Cool, so you have 'TMS' with both the redacted under threat cover image and the legal one. Thanks a bunch for the DG video links. I'll use those as soon as I type the final period here. Well, technically after I push the 'publish' button then link to here on FB. You putting together a thing for this place is, of course, music to my ears. To my eyes too. Anytime would be great. I'm about to travel, and it always gets hard to keep the blog up to speed just before and after that. Thank you a lot for the thought, man. Very bon weekend! ** Gary gray, Hi, Gary. I snuck back and caught your lost comment, and thanks a lot for your faves list. I made notes. You know how I feel about nostalgia. It's a sworn enemy of mine, although I do like the confusion and weird emotional effect of being where you were in a form that doesn't fit as mindlessly and comfortably there. It's very unnerving, and that unnerving thing is a very rich, complicated source for stuff. Thoughts or emotions or stuff for the page. As you can imagine, I really like that writing apparatus. I like writing apparatuses in general, but I like yours in particular. It seems like it could totally work and be an exciting groundwork to paw through as well. Nice. Ha ha, sweet, thanks, about the sort of namesake. I wish my first name was Washington. Wow, that would be cool. ** Creative Massacre, Hi, M. Gee, that island looks really cool. What an amazing photo of it too. I just immediately want to be there when I see it. It looks so fragile or something. Not the island but the life built on it. And everything looks so sweetly dated, like it was built decades ago, which makes it seem like candy or something. I don't know. Seductive picture, and a place that will obviously be the footing for an awesome vacation. Sweet. Thanks a lot, pal, and enjoy your Saturday and Sunday. ** Misanthrope, Hi, G. We have those Outback joints in LA, and the commercials at least were ubiquitous when I was there 24/7. And I think their commercials were really loud or disruptively crass or something. Apropos of almost nothing, they opened the first ever Burger King in France this week. Can't be good. I just hope that, if the American fast food encroachment has to happen, there'll be Taco Bells and Chipotle's and Poquito Mas's (especially) ruining everything here too. Persian food, yum, I think. Sure, I'll get LPS something from Japan. But help me out by being as specific as you can. Like, what plush character or what, like, anime or TV show or whatever does he like or whatever. Or whatever else. I need hints or clues or something 'cos there's a ton of cool stuff like that for sale there, and it would be too easy for me to accidentally get him something dorky. But, sure, no prob at all. 5'8"?! When did that happen? Wow, he's like an adult or a simulacrum or something. ** I guess that's that. Spend some of your weekend learning about DE's life in his lustrous prose please. And speak to him in some way regarding your reading experience, okay? Thank you. Great weekends to you one and all, and I'll see you Monday.

23 comments:

les mots dans le nom said...

@Mr Ehrenstein, a real task of reading here. Two days ahead. Thank you in advance.
@Dearest Dennis, you often praise too much. most kind of you. I just like Celan and Bonnefoy, there's nothing to be praised about. No one, other than their books, taught me about them, so it's been out of my hard work, while of course, language is borrowed.--I will eventually mail the present. No rush right? I need a high quality lazy and working time for a while. I will walk out now and get some bread loaves though. Nice reminder.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Merci Dennis!

Be sure to listen to all four segment's of The Firesign Theater's classic "Don't Crush That Dwarf -- Hand Me The Pliers" after reading "High School Madness."

DavidEhrenstein said...

Dennis check your e-mail (there are a couple of corrections)

steevee said...

My inter-library loan of Tony Pipolo's book on Bresson, published a few years back, finally arrived. (I ordered it back in August!) I will pick it up on the 30th! Pipolo is an acquaintance of mine - the only film critic I know of who's also a psychiatrist - and I'm really looking forward to reading his thoughts on Bresson. Have you read this?

DavidEhrenstein said...

Latest FaBlog: Divorce Catholic Style

Cassandra Troyan said...

Hi Dennis!
Love the 90 drugged collection, like a second-hand jolt to the synapses. Also, so glad to see you feature "THEM". I feel the post on HTMLGiant slipped under the radar due to other shitstorms brewing at the time. I'm looking forward to the journal's longevity, (hopefully). p.s., I think I got to the party late when you posted your list for 2013. I commented some of my favorites, wasn't sure if you got them.
I hope you are well!

p.s.
Consider this a "nudge" too!
Much love,
c.

gary gray said...

David Ehrenstein: how you write is grand. i sometime check out yr blog whenever you leave a link here. i love how yr interests propel what you write. it's quite amazing actually. like each post is a byproduct of who you are.

anywho. on this. to read this felt almost as if i was observing you. I also felt like you told an 8th of the story, only to realize you told everything. i love how there's more in what you don't say, or imply then what can be read with words. i need to read this some more. i need to let it wash around in me a bit more. btw: i love the firesign theater. my fav album of theirs is "in the next world you're on your own." i'm pretty sure madvillian/MF doom used samples from the ad's from their records.

DC: i really don't know if i've ever quantified nostalgia. if anything i'm trying to figure out why i long for moments that never happened the way i remember it. it's like i try to remember things in the past as if i knew as much then as i do now. i'm bored with talking bout nostalgia.

the story i'm trying to make happen starts with this comment
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dS2McPYzEE&feature=c4-overview&list=UUgqbLipd316Z2lRYADBWbfw

dam. can't hold back being nostalgic

OH! i burnt a "movie" i made while in la. when i say movie i mean it's recored, long enough, has a script and a ending. it's not any good. it's like a fan video for Jacques Rivette. but i guess it really a fan vid. fan vid of alot of things. but it was a byproduct of staying up for a week watching his films. anyways, i do like it 15 mins in. i think i dance better when the acid kicks in. but, yeah. i burnt copys to be sold at head shops. i know a lot of people watch stupid shit as back round. this is back ground for people getting really high/drunk. oddly enough i've sold a few. it's all very silly tho https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05ub7DHgTgI&feature=youtu.be

gary gray said...

also. i got a new number 1 album of the year n next http://rapfix.mtv.com/2013/12/27/lil-b-rolls-out-101-tracks-on-new-mixtape

les mots dans le nom said...

@Mr Ehrenstein, your knowledge and cultural experience is needless to be remarked by my words. I wouldn't dare. Anyhow, if I didn't misread, there's nice humor in characterizing Nelson in narrator's mind. What would be like knowing someone biblically? Very pleasant read-- inviting narrative, and much charms in writing itself -- sounds like an intense high school at this chapter. Honestly, I don't think I could survive there, ha ha

Keaton said...

Hey. Yes, that's my Twitter feed. Thanks. =) I like Twitter. I like to Tweet as I am voluable and the environment of Tweets tickles me. Twitter is Ouilipoish in some ways. I find it conducive to shorts/short-dialogue pieces of great fun and good effect. When I think Buche I think love. LOL Been listening to the new Motorhead, it plays through in what seems like a few minutes. It's fucking awesome. It's a mix of, "I'm old and fucked.", "Life is strange; Love is great.", "Fucking blow me, I'm godamned Lemmy!" Some great fucking Rock n' Roll. It's gonna be a hell of a year for reading, just got La Captive and Repitition today. Gonna be reading Solip later tonight and there's the complete Crowley for later this year. 2014 is the year of the novel. The year of non-stop production. re: drugged LOL, I don't party, so I think I'm going to get a pill soon, not sure what one I want. I have to attack some paintings hardcore tonight. DavidE, I love the structure of the writing, and btw, your Polanski book was wonderful. Gender? Bi-sexual? I'm not even that sexual. Twink-sexual? Ok off to painting world. Wish me luck. Oh, I did my best of 2013 today: That Upstream movie, Magic Mike, Mud, Tenebras, Hung On A Hook, God Is Dead, Indie Dance music, Completion anxiety, the most beautiful boy ever, the "fat kid", the Mexican, the Jew, etc. =)

Tomáš said...

Hi Dennis,
Are you still in Paris this year?
Take Care,

Tomas

DavidEhrenstein said...

Gary gray, there's Always " more in what you don't say, or imply then what can be read with words."

Thanks.

Et merci les mots

BTW the order of "Don't Crush That Dwarf" is as follows:

One

Two


Three

and

Four

allesfliesst said...

wish my high school had had some more of that madness. thank you, mr. e!

dennis, is that unwillingness of yours to get drunk on parties a recent development and due to age-health-etc., or is it more of a drugs (fascinating) vs. alcohol (dumb) thing?

i've finished part 1 of mizumura's novel (it comes in two volumes, about 900 pages altogether). takes some interesting turns: the first 160 pages, told from the point of view of someone called minae mizumura, are just an elaborate introduction for the story of a young man, which again only frames the story of a woman, which is mainly about a boy who grows up to be a man the mizumura-narrator claims to have known through her father and some mutual acquaintances --> allusions to 19th century realism with its habit of presenting 'true stories' as true by including lots of details on how the author/narrator has learned about the events. and with its observations of work-life and interlacing of male and female perspectives, it's also a very intelligent reflection on what 'economy' comes to mean for members of either sex over the decades, from the 1940s to the present. i'm easily bored by virtually anything drawing on a 'male/female' distinction, but this is different.

les mots dans le nom said...

Hi Dennis as I can't send the book before your Japan visit, about which I am also excited for mysterious reason, here are scanned images of (Ken) Price-san's Japan visit plates. Added the first plate text that i photographed in the gallery--not in a good quality, but still, you/others in interest might enjoy the whole, better. Ken Price Japan plates I like this kind of simple and humor thing, feels clear and nice

DavidEhrenstein said...

"What would be like knowing someone biblically?"

Fucking them, les mots.

les mots dans le nom said...

haha, thanks for the answer, Mr E. yeah, whatever fucking means, post-fucking multiples is a daunting experience, enough to forget... I suspect...Jeeez, my life is so boring...

_Black_Acrylic said...

@ David Ehrenstein, mmmm this was a mighty fine way to round off the weekend. With such dazzling anecdotal repartee I figure you'd make quite the talk show guest. I really hope Raised By Hand Puppets does the rounds of that particular circuit.

The Generator members' show is coming up in mid January, and I'm sorry to say I don't have any artwork to show for this year. I'll try and rack my brains for a hot idea.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Merci Black et les mots!

grant maierhofer said...

hey dennis, this will unfortunately be kinda short cos i spent the last i dunno hour or so getting this thing all organized but i wanted to share it here since it's how we kinda first started communicating and i included a few pieces i posted here where i wrote a bit more. basically i collected every nonfiction thing i've written from 2012-2013 and posted them all on my tumblr with brief excerpts from each cos i wanted to use this to move forward or something. here it is. have at it if you'd like. i think i've shared most with you already. hope you're doing well man, and that you have a happy new year!

NONFICTION 2012-2013

Creative Massacre said...

Dennis – this may sound weird but the island reminds me of the whole Woodstock vibe. Everyone is just so laid and cool. You don’t have to worry about getting hustled or harassed. You can safely walk around at night and not get mugged, etc. You can walk along the beach and people will offer to take your photo for you, or if you fall or get caught in the tide people will stop and help you. Once you’re there, it’s really hard to leave. The buildings have their own personality, if that makes sense. It’s like no two buildings are alike. You can walk into one and it would be this little antique shop and next to it could be a bakery and then next to it a museum, all in the same little strip. One good thing about it too is that you’re not overloaded with big chain restaurants and stores. The whole time I was there last, the only big chain place I saw was Waffle House. Since it was Spring Break, that place stayed packed. You have to drive, probably 6-10 miles or so before you get to the next town, which is Destin. There you will find your Chanel stores, Wal-Marts, theme parks, etc. If I could, I would move there in a heartbeat. I loved it. The only thing that kind of weirds me about the place, is that it’s completely surrounded by military bases. On any give day, you can watch military choppers fly across the beach. It’s kind of creepy.

Misanthrope said...

DavidE, Bravo, sir! When do you expect to be finished with your exquisite memoir? Or maybe I should ask, when will it be published?

Dennis, Oh, no, not Taco Bell. I understand the jones for some Mexican, but Taco Bell? Even their meatless stuff is awful. I'm with you on the Chipotle's or the Poquito Mas's, if they have to happen, though.

Burger King...bleh. I remember being so horrified seeing a McD's -or was it a KFC?- in Paris. It just didn't seem right. I hope no one goes to those places over there.

Btw, McD's in London are awful, even worst than the American versions.

Oh, yes, LPS is getting to be quite the tall m'f'er. I'm gonna measure him before he goes back home this coming weekend to get an exact measurement.

So okay...he and I discussed it, and here are two things he wouldn't mind (not asking for two, just two suggestions): a yen banknote (he likes foreign currency and already has British and European currency colletted) or a plush Squirtle, the little turtle Pokemon guy. Size doesn't matter, of course. I'm thinking it should be rather inexpensive to get a little one. It's a ubiquitous, popular character, but it's his favorite. And of course, many, many thanks from both of us.

And so you recognize the little guy: SQUIRTLE

Keaton said...

A Thousand Ways To Cry (Fuck 2013)

DavidEhrenstein said...

I hope to finish it in a month or so.