On the Road to New York City, September 1986

All the years I traveled around U.S. and elsewhere,  I kept notes, some brief, some in depth. Been cleaning the studio,  and organizing files, ran across some travel stuff. Not in any order, but  this all took place during one Big Apple trip. This trip was strictly for biz,  and on my dime to meet with my agent and editor to talk about The Berkut which will publish next year, and other book business.

Flew Blue Goose from Kalamazoo to Dayton to   catch  Blue Goose connection to New York. Our lead flight attendant has a rubber backside. Men lean into the aisles to watch her wake.

I went to my seat and sat down. Turned out I was the wrong address.  I pulled out a 6-month old boarding pass and had to move. This is not unusual when you travel as much as I do.

After boarding our pilot announces the Air Traffic Control computer is down and we are on “an indefinite delay.” We sat for 30 minutes and when the computer came back on line were 8th or 9th in line for takeoff. We finally go wheels up 1+45 after we were schedule. Glad I’m not connecting at LaGuardia (LAG). Not too far from Jackson Heights where I attended St. Joan of Arc in first grade. My old man was station in recruiting down at Whitehall Street, once made the papers for swearing in Whitey Ford.

Someone in the back of our bird has a heavy wet cough – the sort that goes on and one with every indication that it will end with a lung flying down the aisle. It goes on throughout the flight.

When I fly I take turbulence personally and I do not like not being able to see the flight crew and monitor what the hell they are doing.

Grab quick minimalist breakie at LAG: Orange juice, coffee, milk, and a bagel. “That’ll be $8.”

The Libertarian politician Lydon LaRouche has his troops at a table at Laguardia.  One LaRouche guy says to me, “Sir are you interested in a strong defense for Europe?” I keep walking and he says, “Hey, keep walking Mister, the stock market’s gonna keep going down.” Like that means something to me? I live paycheck to paycheck.

New York, New York, it just is.

My cabbie from LAG to Manhattan is named Luis. He wants to open a “good restaurant.” He tells me he’s Puerto Rican, does not like his Cuban cousins. Talked about the Feds, other drivers, Possible U.S Canada merger, Puerto Rico statehood, cheap Cubanos and his lazey son-in-law

On foot in Manhattan a block beyond a clump of stores I come upon an old black man clinging to a public telephone platform while singing, “America,” his free hand outstretched, the universal hit-me-with-some- green- gesture.

Lunch with my Random House editor Joe Fox. La Petite Marmot. Yellow walls, Waiters in white jackets, black trousers, one block from the  the UN Building, Fresh flower baskets on the tables. Also baskets of cut veggies. Brown marble bar. Gold-plated dessert gurney. Deep green-gray carpet with short pile. Fox wants to talk about the future books, says, One word: “Loot. People love stories about treasure. Loot’s the ticket. “

At a nearby table a gorgeous lady in a skimpy black dress shouts, “Fuck you, you Latvian pig!” She is alone. There is nobody sitting close to her. Bad day, one presumes.

Styles in restaurants for the ladies: spike heels. FMR mainly, prominent breast architecture, most with hair that looks like they were prepped by electrocution.

OBSERVATION: Good restaurants never have clocks.  And, those that do are interested in moving people through. Good restaurants let people be.

Out at the airport there is a call for pre-boarding. Exactly what does that mean? You’re either on or off the aircraft, right?

Outside the Glaziers’ Union Hall on Sixth Avenue, there is a gathering of people in satin union jackets and a tall black woman with flaming red hair, a decent six-five in her heels.

A  Cabby’s reaction to my tip: “Three fucking percent” Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”

Dinner at Village restaurant. Our waiter has long black hair in a ringlets, a touch of rouge on his cheekbones, a falsetto, feminine voice.

In Greenwich Village after dinner. On the street under a yellow light lamp there is a young man and young woman locked in an embrace, weaving, off balance, their lust knocking their gyros out. She has her hand between his legs and is rubbing vigorously. My agent Betsy Nolan says,” Like I really needed to see THAT.”

We pass a shop in the village, the windows filled with what look like ancient travel posters from the USSR.

Betsy’s office and apartment are in the Korean Green Grocery district.  She owns the upper floor of an old factory. On the ground floor there is a Korean-run hat shop. Davey Crockett hats are on sale, no prices given. The man, Betsy says, pays $10,000 mo. rent. To sell coonskin caps. Weird. One block north of us is the Furrier district, west is the garden district. Activity in this neighborhood usually starts around 0400,and shuts down by 1700.Across the street from her building is a brothel called, The Love Apple, all Oriental establishment, stocked with sporting ladies.

Betsy has a house guest. His name is X, a native San Franciscan, recently located to  So California. He’s a decorator for a mannequin company, a business Betsy calls cutthroat.  X’s former lover now works for a competitor and they hate each other. X, Betsy tells me, has had a tough life. His grandfather hung himself because an operation for one of his daughters went poorly. X’s uncle  then hung himself; he was the husband of the woman whose operation failed, but his suicide note said he did it because his father hung himself.  X’s  father then hung himself and it was X who found the body. Thus, a father and two sons hung themselves until dead, all of them in the same room of the family home. So much for Ozzie and Harriet.

When Betsy lived in Paris in the  early 1960’s she authored a book (in French) on the historical antecedents of the Vietnam War, but no U.S. publisher was interested. “It made about 15 cents,” she tells me and laughs.

Monday night Betsy went to a focus group. A writer friend had authored a book on the women’s movement. All the women at the meeting were 48-52. All related how the movement was the most important event/influence in their lives. One woman vehemently disagreed. She has M.S., as does her husband. She announced, “The woman’s movement doesn’t mean shit to me or to people like me, to the handicapped or seriously ill. When my first baby was born the State tried to take her away. “You can’t hold your baby,” they said, “and, therefore, you can’t properly care for her. This is what they told me. Bullshit! I fought them. You know what? Babies know. Mine knew I couldn’t hold her, so she clung to me – like a monkey. I took her everywhere and she just hung on. When her diaper needed changing, she lay perfectly still so I could  change her. Babies know these things. They compensate. And the State wanted to take her! Where was the damned Women’s Movement then? Nowhere. They couldn’t care less.” Betsy said she was blown away by this. Me too.

I had a suite at the Helmsley at $300/ night.   No idea who made the reservation. The price made me dizzy. The toilet paper was wedged so tight you had to take it off one sheet at a time. The stopper in the sink wouldn’t hold. The vanity mirror was loose and tilted down as if it had broken its neck. Couldn’t close the door to the bathroom while on the toilet. I love New York. Three bills a night. Ridiculous.

Heading out to LAG. The Cabby tells me of his exploits in North Africa with the Brits in WW2 (under General Alexander). Claims he fought against Rommel in 1943. I asked him: “Does it seem like a distant dream, or like yesterday?” He looked back at me, said softly. “Like last night.”

Betsy tells me she arranged a date for her friend X. She described his date (a man) as “lewd and Lascivious.” Said X,”Goody!”

En route to Dayton, the man beside me has white hair and is extremely stooped. There was a woman’s travel case on floor at his feet. Beside him sat a woman with her granddaughter a girl of 3 or 4, black-hair, bright eyes, delicate little creature. The  man asked granny about the weather in Dayton. “It snowed a couple of days ago, but didn’t stick.” He sighed loudly. “I’m 72 years old and I’ve never yet seen snow.” Lucky man in my estimate. We’re bucking a 130 knot headwind going west. Time flies when you’re having fun. No snow when we land. This makes the man sad. Not me. I guess I lack an empathy gene,except when writing.