Where have I been? Part 2.
by Benny Bean
So here we are Part 2 getting this stuff out of me after being set off by a invite to my 50th class reunion. A news letter came out with classmates bringing us all up to speed on what they have done since we graduated from high school in 1966. Bringing us up to speed on all that they haven’t changed since patriarchy ruled the roost, most stood in line and didn’t mind the man’s thumb holding them down. Thanks my lucky stars that back in Goon City there was a group of let us say enlightened folks, the pharmacist who fought for Social Security when he was a representative at the state Capitol, called a Commie by the god-fearing righteous folks who when they retired said, “I don’t know what I would do if it wasn’t for Social Security,” the art teacher in high school who had worked at the Masses Magazine back in the 30ties, a beat poet who was our high school English teacher, a man and his wife who had been in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany, a couple of ministers who were in the civil rights movement, Anne who was a member of the War Resisters League, and my close friend Eddie whose ancestors came to Goon City as free blacks when the town was founded. Eddies grandmother was a Wangunk Indian who was an herbalist, Eddie’s older brother Peter was the person that got me interested in going to NYC as he was back and forth hoping that someday he would be a famous folk singer instead of just playing Washington Square Park with a bunch of other hopefuls as they said singing for nickels and dimes. He learned all the songs of the day came home and sang them to us kids. One song that sticks in my mind and I just listened to it again was Woody Guthrie’s I ain’t got no home in this world anymore. It says a lot in a few lines.
I want to go back a bit to the period right after I fled Goon City for the streets of NYC turning tricks out of the Times Square area, hanging out on the Lower East Side and meeting the first man that I was thought of as more than just quick sex. Ethan was his name came up to me when I was out sitting on a bench in Tompkins Square Park. working on my drawings. Fall was falling and I was getting scared. What will I do when winter comes? Freeze out here on the street. Go down to 1st street and stay in the city shelter? Chance getting bugs all over my body. What a fucked up state that would be. Crabs are not a thing that one would want to catch if ones main job was turning tricks. Get religion and join the Catholic Worker movement, I am sure that they would have a bed for a willing worker. I knew about them from some of the folks who had sat out during the air raids when everyone else was suppose to hide from the Russian bombs, my grandmother once said, bull on that it won’t matter if I am in under the stairs in the cellar or upstairs in the kitchen, if I duck and cover or stay put in my chair, as when the bomb drops it will be all over no matter if you are upstairs or downstairs. What we have to do is stop the bombs from dropping.” That was my introduction to why must we be anti-war. It wouldn’t matter where we where, or what we were, how much we had or how much we didn’t have it wouldn’t matter if we were a man women or child, cat or dog, pig or cow it would be all over. Everything that is blameless would cease to exist. We all know that those who are to blame for war always seem to escape. I have always agreed with Frank Little, IWW organizer who said, “Either we are for their capitalist slaughter fest or we are against it.” Why would any working class person want to fight for those pigs is beyond me. Willie’s older sister Anne had been on the Ban the Bomb march and had sat out with Dorthy Day and members of the War Resisters League during the air raid drills in NYC, came back to Goon City one summer and told us all about it. How inspiring it was to hear about people taking a stand and fully understanding that war wasn’t any good for anything.
Writing the above reminded me of when as school kids we had to hid under our desks. As if that would save us.
Ethan began by admiring my drawings. I told him I am working on some musical compositions. He said, they look more like art than music, I said well I suppose can they be both? Why not I guess. Want to come to my place I really would like to make love to you. Sure I would love to. Easy as that. Ethan was going to Columbia with plans on being a doctor. His parents were flipping the bill but didn’t know that he was living on the Lower East Side among the hippies and poor people. Nah, they don’t have the time to come to the city for a visit, just want me to call home every so often, and then check in with them for at least a weekend a month. Do they know you like men? No and I wouldn’t dare tell them. I told Ethan my story and how I came to NYC and soon had to find a place to live and a job. Don’t you think you should be going to school? Going to school. Christ I was living from one dick to the next, out on the street, and you ask me if I should be going to school. Right there I knew of the divide, the divide that separated people. Yeah I know all about “someday” but I had to just get past the today. I hadn’t really thought about school one way or another but would consider ruling it out as I really hated high school. I hated having anyone lord over me with any control. I just wanted to do what I had to do and then forget it until the next day. Like just a job or you know I wonder how easy it is to collect unemployment from the job I had in Goon City before coming here? I should check it out. Ethan had a contact at the employment office and he said that maybe she could help me. It was pretty easy to collect back in those days. At the very least it would be something coming in and you could spend your days drawing and maybe consider going to art school. You want to stay with me until you can get on your feet it will be okay. So that was settled. Now I didn’t have to worry about freezing on the streets.
Mary a girl I had met back in Times Square told me the 42nd street Automat was hiring. Some of the boys were drafted and they needed a dishwasher, a couple of people to restock the compartments and if the boss liked you there was room to advance. Added bonus any left over food was given to the employees to take home. The pay was $1.05 per hour, the hours 10-6 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Maybe I thought I should try for it. The only thing I knew about the Automat was making soup out of hot water and ketchup when a person had no money, yes, friends it was true. and when they did the food was cheap and good. I met with Mr. Barley the next day, was hired and began working on Friday. I got a job stocking the compartments with pies. Yum, Yum how I liked pies. Give me any kind of pie and I would eat it. One rule was no eating on the job unless you were on break. Mr. Barley said I don’t care if it looks good enough to eat right then and there and your stomach is growling wait until you are on break. I didn’t mind work even if it did get in the way of living. Mr. Barley smoked cigars and liked to talk dirty. Didn’t care if it was a boy or girl, hey look at him, nice ass, she got big tits get between them you may not wake up, Man I would love to hump that. Today those words in the work place could get a person fired. I liked Mr. Barley and he liked me and more than once I ended up in his apartment after my shift was over. Ethan didn’t expect monogamy and I didn’t either, but as the days went by we began to see that we really were in love. Hard for me to comprehend as I had never been in love with a real man before. Sure I had told man after man how much I loved him during hot sex but after the sex was over we both went our merry ways sometimes hoping to see each other again and more times then not wishing never to. I can’t count the number of men I had sex with but I can count the ones I remember on two hands. Read the rest of this entry »