Wednesday, December 08, 2004


(My next few posts are somewhat black. Without knowing me, you may not know if I have my tongue in my cheek or my foot in my mouth. Of course, I would like to keep it straight as well. I do not post as often as I would like, but I have to borrow my kid's computer. I have a bad back and I can't sit for long. I would get my own laptop, but first I have to learn to use this contraption. In these pieces called MINI-ME, you can find sketches towards a future autobiography. ARTpieces are meant to explore issues in ways they seem not to be being explored by others. They are not full of news and I assume you know the usual spin on most issues. My next post is a piece called, A SWIFT PROPOSAL, and it is about suicide bombings. My publisher tells me noone wants to read about suicide. But it is not. If I wrote anything about suicide itself, it would be too long and I would not like to write it either! But, before we get to that, I would like to tell a tale that illustrates how one should never assume that one knows the whole story. I welcome any and all feedback. I do not have fact checkers and sometimes I really blow it. I may blush, but if I need to, I will stand corrected.)

In the Summer of 1960, I hitchhiked down to Miami from New York to meet up with Ned. He was a folk guitar stylist and I read poetry. We hung out in the few coffee houses in Coral Gables, next to the Univerity of Miami. The owner of one was the unofficial mayor of, or Pied Piper of, Coconut Grove. He found us a place to stay in the grove.

The Grove, on the surface, seemed a lot like where I had just come from. It was my first time down South and the advance publicity was not good. I confess that I had not gone down to register black voters. As always, I had come to observe first and then, maybe, I would know how to act.

There was a shoe shine stand by the corner of Douglas and Grand. It had a sign on it that said, "We's integrated, how about you?" I always chatted with those guys as I walked by. I ate at Rod's Bar BQ, a take out rib joint in the "black" section of the Grove. I copped a matchbox of ganja from a Haitian dude I ran into. I had no idea that this little "paradise" extended for only a few miles.

We ran into a guy from Philly who was opening a new coffee house in Hialeah. I signed on as cook/manager and Ned became waiter/dishwasher. We featured local acts, and if noone showed, Ned and I would fill in. Every day began the same. We would have less than $10. We would charge a $1 cover charge. When customers started to come in, we would take their orders. Then I would jump into car and go to the local grocery store and buy what we needed to finish the orders. (Our specialty was roast beef sandwiches and a wicked orangeade.) Some of our customers and some of our acts were black. I thought that a new South must be aborning because this was nothing like the South I had read about.

Then one day about a dozen police showed up. I was making a sandwich in the kitchen and first became aware of them when I heard one of them say, "Take a picture of that. An open loaf of bread..." I size things up pretty fast; I don't always make the right decision. I picked up the loaf of bread with two fingers, "We don't use open bread in this establishment.", I told them and proceeded to toss the bread over my shoulder into the garbage. Four cops grabbed me and slammed me against the wall. They cuffed me. Their leader asked, "What are you busting him for?" "Opposing an officer," came the reply.

"And what were you arresting him for before he opposed you?" the boss promted. And the cop he was speaking to turned to me and asked, "Do you have a work permit?"

Of course I didn't. They had passed the law requiring non-residents to obtain work permits only a week earlier; in order to deal with our "threat". Ned sat down and pretended he was a customer. I was booked and the owner was cited for not having a grounding wire on the clock in the kitchen. God bless all moms. His mom bailed me out of jail. $375. Her lawyer friend told us that the way it worked down here, we could expect my fine to equal my bail. I was broke, so I called home.

Though ten miles and fifty years from the Grove, Hialeah, thankfully, was still not Mississippi. They really had it in for us. They scheduled my hearing on a Jewish holiday. I had a Jewish pubic defender and a Jewish judge, both pissed that they had to work on a holiday. My lawyer opened with, "If they want to proceed on the resisting arrest charge we will be forced to file a misuse of force complaint against the arresting offficers." Case dismissed; except I was fined $15 for working without a permit. I got fired from my next job, at a hospital, because I said I had never been convicted of a crime and then this "record" was uncovered.

So the coffee shop closed. Our benefactor, the mayor, found us an apartment in the Grove. It was the servant's quarters of an old estate. The main house was still occupied by an elderly matron. She began hating us after we used the swimming pool. Upstairs lived this bass player, Jay K. He played country music and was kind of Republican. He came downstairs to tell us the house rules according to the missus. He was accompanied by David Ferrie.

We hung around the Grove that Summer doing our part. Freddy Neil, Vince Martin and the regulars who had breakfast every morning at the Grove Drugstore, including Ned and I, sat at the back tables with a musician friend of ours, K.C. Anderson, who was not of the white persuasion. They allowed blacks into the store. They could buy things and even order food to go, but the tables were for whites only. We monopolized the tables and waited them out. Eventually, the manager came out, assessed the situation and told the waitress to take our order. But again, this was in the most liberal part of the whole state. When we tried the same thing across the street at the Tom Thumb Restaurant, they physically kept us out and remained closed till we split.

One day, a guy shows up and says, "I need musicians who want to play at a rally." Most of the musicians I knew signed on and we all went out to Crandall Park where there was a flatbed truck set up as a stage. It was for a guy named Collins who was running for Congress. Jay and his bass were there. Other people were playing. I was leaning comfortably collapsed on the truck bed. I saw David Ferrie walk by and then back up. So I looked up at him, and I could see Jay's stand-up bass, between us, leaning against the piano. Before I could even react, he smashed the neck of the double-bass over my head. I was taken to Mercy Hospital where they gave me four stitches.

I always figured it was a sign of discontent. I thought the locals wanted us to leave. We were attracting too much attention. When I got out of the hospital, I went back to New York to convalesce. Perhaps, Ferrie, who was a pilot, was smuggling drugs, I thought.

A few years later, I was living in New Orleans. I was living on Decatur Street, in the French Quarter, above a bar that my friend was running. I walked him over to pay the rent a few times. I met his landlord. It was a guy named Clay Shaw. My girlfriend at the time was best friends with DA Garrison's secretary and we heard rumbles about how Clay Shaw was involved in the Kennedy assassination. When I heard that Ferrie was supposed to have driven Shaw to Texas to meet with some Mafia types, it made sense to me. Clay Shaw seemed to be the kind of cat who would just love to be dominated by Ferrie, and Ferrie seemed genuinely up to the task.

Now, I never spoke to Oliver Stone. Once, while I was downtown Chicago, I was handed a flyer for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. I tore its arguments apart for a rhetoric paper. I got an A on it. I still see the face of the guy who handed it to me. It was Oswald. I have no idea what place these two facts have in this story.

I finally got to see the movie (i.e., JFK). Then I googled David Ferrie. There it was. It seemed he was working with the CIA training Alpha-66 for an invasion of Cuba. The night before I got bopped on the head, Ned and I were walking through the Grove with a new friend we had been introduced to, Mario G. We were splitting a j. sitting on a bench by a bus stop, when a police car slowly began to roll up to us. Mario took the pot and put it in his pants.

"Where are you going?", they asked us. (There were two officers.) We had no ID's on us. They explained that we were liable for arrest for "aimless meandering" if we did not cooperate. Then another cop car pulls up. This one had a dog in it. "We smelled marijuana when we first pulled up. You weren't smoking were you?"

The dog was going bananas. They opened the back door and the dog ran right up to Mario and began licking his hand. "Hi, Rusty.", Mario said, stroking the dog. And then Mario told the shocked cops, "I live next to Det.XXX. He trained this dog and we used to play together all the time." A call and a harrumph later, we were on our way. They are going to stay with me tonight, he told the cops. And that was that.

About a year later I asked my friend the Mayor, whatever happened to Mario. "He was implicated in a murder. He went back to Cuba to avoid getting arrested." Later snippets had it that involved a traitor to Alpha-66 and though the FBI came to investigate, the CIA got Mario out of the country.

I do not believe any longer that I was attacked because I upset the sensibilities of some local White People. It seems, instead, that I just got too close to the CIA. So you see, you might really never know whether you have got it right or not.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hung out in the grove one night in the mid 80's. A friend and I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show at a theater in the Grove. After, we wandered around looking at a site with a man who was a "shrimp fisherman", or that was his honary title. It was the last time it seemed sort of folksy and backwater. A few years later, everything was Neon and Glitz.

Several years ago, again wandered around with my brother. Now, it seems like a large, expensive outdoor mall. Oh, well. Memories are perhaps the best in this instance.

10:15 PM  
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