Sections Above and Below This Page:
out of the school, to work as community organizers for the North Oakland Poverty Program, that they created the Party by writing out its ten-point platform and program. The "points" were divided into "What We Want" and "What We Believe" categories of practical, specific demands for things they felt were needed, and should be--things that were guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and had been demanded by black people for a hundred years, things that were directly related to what they had before they were forced to leave Africa. The language used to express the ten points was concrete, easily understandable, and seemed to cover all the ground concerning a man's right to existence on the planet, be he black or brown or whatever.
Emmett felt that the articulation of the Party's platform and program was far more inspired than the choice of "Black Panther" as a name. It was too narrow a title for a group which stressed "intercommunalism" and besides, one of the Ku Klux Klan's first dens or local chapters in nineteenth-century South Carolina had also been named after the same predator--one of the only animals to kill for sport, not just food. Emmett assumed that the name had been chosen as a follow-up to the SNCC group, which had been formed to protect black people and civil rights workers in Lowndes County, Mississippi, during the early sixties, and not in emulation of the "Black Panther squads" of the U.S. Army's special forces division. He also wondered how all the low-money people in America, not just blacks, were reacting to the Party's alien titles of "Chairman" and "Minister of Defense" assumed by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton.
These were only minor details when one considered that the Black Panther Party was not fundamentally a black racist organization, not racist at all. They worked hard in the Bay Area black community to teach the people their rights, especially their right and duty to defend themselves against brutalization by the "racist power structure." They did this by patrolling the black neighborhoods on weekend nights with loaded weapons to make sure the people weren't terrorized or murdered by some "racist pigs" or local "coon-hunters," the way they usually were in Oakland on Friday and Saturday nights. Their concern for self-defense, with arming the people, and with guns branded them undesirable to the moderate and cultural nationalist black organizations, but that was okay with them because as far as they were concerned all them "Negroes" and "jive-ass esoteric motherfuckers" weren't taking care of the needs of
[end page 309]
the people, and were just out for whatever they could get their hands on for themselves. This attitude gave the government and the spot-quoting press the opportunity to paint the Black Panthers as a ruthless gang of vicious, black-racist, terrorist, back-shooting copkillers, rapidly making them targets for every trigger-happy lawman and every political candidate who was riding on the back of the "law 'n order" frenzy which was spreading throughout the country.
At that same time, the cultural revolution was in full swing in the People's Republic of China, and the news media in San Francisco was always full of stories about the Chinese waving their little Red Books. Since there was so much free advertising going on, Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, like two free-enterprising young men, took advantage of the situation by standing on street corners, selling the Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, using the scratch they made to buy shotguns and pay the rent on their storefrontoffice, where they recruited their cadre, many of whom were still in their teens, like little Bobby Hutton, the first rank-and-file member of the Black Panther Party.
They were an energetic and ambitious black revolutionary organization, and it was soon after they put the cops down in front of Ramparts that the magazine's only black staff writer, who interviewed Betty Shabazz that day, joined the Party. He had just been paroled from San Quentin where he had done an eight-year-bit at the bottom of the prison's pecking order as a rapist, which afforded him plenty of quiet time to write a book. His name was Eldridge Cleaver, and he was given the title of Minister of Information after he helped Chairman Bobby and Minister Huey P. begin publication of the Black Panther Party newspaper which transformed the organization into an armed propaganda unit no one could ignore. No matter how outlandishly and crazily Cleaver jerked off his rhetoric, there was always something in the paper which made its existence worthwhile to the black community and to the country's other low-money people as well.
Emmett understood what the Panthers were doing and respected them as brothers in the same struggle.
David Smith, M.D., still managed to maintain his quest for public recognition, striving toward "success" at his Haight-Ashbury Medical Clinic, which he continued to insist was "Free" simply because no one was made to pay him a fee for being a research patient. One of the clinic's statistics briefly interrupted the "experimental" oper
[end page 310]
ation, until he was apprehended and singled out for the press by thedoctor, as an example of the type of psychosis which he claimed was rampant in the Haight-Ashbury. The statistic called himself Joe SuperSex and he gained his notoriety by stealing a box of urine testing tablets from the H.A. Medical Clinic and giving them away as dope, poisoning several young people. But he wasn't the only one to nearly tarnish the clinic's "wholesome record of unselfish humanitarian service"--there were many others. A few of the more cunning were imposters, posing as doctors working on the staff of the H.A. Medical Clinic and going around making house calls. It was a pretty funny scene, at least if you weren't one of the young females who'd had the canals leading from their uterus to the external orifice of their cloacae probed in examination. It was shortly after the series of imposters that the clinic discontinued making any house calls. The Diggers wanted this Mickey Mouse operation replaced with really "free" competent medical clinics in the Fillmore, Potrero, Mission, Hunter's Point-Bayview, and Haight-Ashbury districts.
One afternoon, Emmett left the truck with Tumble and took some time off from the Free Food to see whether anything could still be done to effect some sort of control over the Ramparts' Hippie article which had him deeply worried. He went over to the Communication Company to see what Claude and Chester knew about it, and found them mimeographing a letter from Neil Cassady in Mexico to Allen Ginsberg, who was preparing to leave San Francisco to return to New York by way of the college lecture circuit.
Neil Cassady was an intense, strong forty-year-old with rippling muscles, an unequaled tolerance for alcohol and drugs and a voracious desire to communicate everything he knew, or whatever he was thinking about, to everyone all the time. He was a gypsy-traveler with no money in any bank, and the hero of at least one book, who lived his life with a velocity that seemed to preserve his prime, but would have killed most men twenty years younger. The style of the letter offers a brief but accurate glimpse at Cassady's makeup and a quick poetic insight into one of the things which concerned him besides pleasure, which was always on his mind until he died from it a short time later.
San Miguel'Allende, GTO--MEX 3-31-7 6p.
i know it looks like my mind's gone--but No--still, i'll recapitulate. But first--Bro. against Bro., almost, in USA. (Bloodless for most part)
[end page 311]
Civil was as Rite Rite cleans up for year or more--i.e. R. Reagon now as governor has already appointed Big Business/man as Labor Commisioner, Welfare Chief is a Lawyer who opposed welfare, State Conservator (redwoods) is a big lumberman; real estate czar is supposed to be fare housing crusader, as Clemency Sect., and ex-D.A. who favored capital punishment--get the idea?--then, late '68--not slow, but fast adjustment as new awakening spreads throughout our culture--meantime, watch out, fishes coming to the surface are to be caught--hooked if your beard's long or hair more than 3 inches. all emotion, no reason, etc. etc.
Many hip folk thought that same way at the time, which was why the Communication Company was printing up the note. After they completed running it off, Emmett got Claude and Chester to take him over to see Warren Hinckle III at his house, so he could find out whether the editors of Ramparts were writing a serious, investigative report on "hippiedom" or just using the fashionable popularity of anything "hip" to boost their circulation and pocket more subscriptions.
Claude and Chester were an odd couple but appeared made for each other, working well together. Claude was a Topanga Canyon beat from Los Angeles who seemed to be trying to wear out his black Mennonite clothing and extra-wide-brimmed, flat, highcrowned, western-style hat--the kind worn by morticians in the Old West. To add to his graveyard look, he sported thick, blacklensed glasses to partially correct his near blindness, and at the same time, prevent anyone from seeing his eyes. He was only a little over twenty but was married to a pleasant womall nearly twice his age, and even though he seldom talked, he made most people laugh just by being around. He was also a slick hustler and a talented mechanic, skillfully maintaining the mimeograph machines that had been bought on time from the Gestetner Corporation but never paid for, leaving their repair entirely up to him.
Chester, on the other hand, didn't have any mechanical ability and was too obvious to be a good hustler. He was in his early forties, but the speed with which he carried out most of his activities gave him a much older look. His frequently haggard appearance blended in with the prevailing taste of the youthful "hippies" and none of them ever called him "Pops." Being a veteran of the "underground culture movement," though, he might have enjoyed and probably would have nurtured such a fatherly ta~. He also considered himself
[end page 312]
an unoflficial historian, having authored a sensational catalogue of footnotes on the Beat Generation as well as several other cheap paper pulps about the drug-oriented, bohemian way of life to appeal to the insatiably prurient appetites of middle-class suburbia. While Claude operated the Gestefax stencil maker and printed up handouts on the machines, Chester would scour the Haight-Ashbury district, looking for "hot" news items which he jotted down in one of the many composition books he carried around in a weathered canvas bag that hung from his shoulder by an adjustable strap which had been in the same position for about fifteen years.
The Communication Company had been modeled after the Digger Papers' operation, and the service it provided the people of the Haight was exceedingly valuable because the news it disseminated was for the most part, essential and needed. The only trouble was that both Claude and Chester also worked on the staff of Ramparts' advertising department where they spread all the newsworthy information about the Haight-Ashbury to the magazine's editors, as a matter of conversation. Since Chester had a well-marked and unrelenting ambition to become a famous underground journalist, Emmett suspected him of feeding those editors too much "news" about the Diggers that was nobody's business. So, he remained wary, and considered himself alone, when he entered Warren Hinckle III's house with the two of them. His sole mistake was in going there at all.
Hinckle III glad-handed him at the door and invited them all inside an expensively furnished, tastelessly comfortable salon where Emmett planted the grimy seat of his dungarees on a large, clean, white-tufted sofa. After he was asked his preference, he was handed a giant tumbler filled with practically half a pint of Southern Comfort and several square chunks of ice, which clinked around in the thick, heavy glass, making that rich, solid sound you hear in Hollywood movies. It was all right and Emmett enjoyed the juice, even though he had to use both hands to drink it.
Warren Hinckle III was pouring himself a fist of whiskey from a bottle on a portable liquor cart. He appeared to be one of those middle-aged, heavy-drinking, college fraternity types who operate as journalists in the radical-liberal political arena for their own personal prestige and self-importance, as well as for the money they make from their usually short-lived publications and the exaggerated influence they feel they assert on minor public officeholders. Their motives are seldom, if ever, based on any progressive, hu
[end page 313]
manitarian or beneficent interests. Hinckle III began by informingEmmett that the article in question had already been written and was presently at the printers where the plates were being offset for the presses. He also noted that there was only a passing mention of Emmett and the Diggers in the story, and that there was nothing to worry about. The conversation continued with Emmett having downed his first glass of booze and working on an equally large second, while chatting about his career in the army and telling a few humorous stories about the work he was doing as a Digger in the Haight-Ashbury.
He only stayed for about twenty, twenty-five minutes, and two weeks later, Ramparts magazine was on almost every newsstand in America with a picture of poster-artis~ Stanley Mouse on the cover and "A Social History of the Hippies" written by Warren Hinckle III inside. The article amounted to nothing short of stone fabrication--a farfetched piece of snide bunko about a fictive "summit meeting of the leaders of the new hippie subculture," which the Diggers had supposedly "convened in the lowlands of California's High Sierras during an early spring weekend" to discuss "the sta~e of the nation of the hippies." As a preface to the plated concoction, there was a full-page photo montage of the alleged "Dramatis Personae" of whom "Emmett Grogan" was one, representing the Diggers. The picture they used was a snapshot taken by a girl one day, when he delivered some Free Food from the produce market to her commune. It was a black-and-white shadowy print, while all the others were bright, clear technicolor shots, and its murkiness was a consolation, because few people who didn't already know him could recognize him from it. But it did capture his image all right, showing him in his fatigue jacket wearing his IRA cap at an angle.
As soon as Emmett saw that March issue of Ramparts, he knew it meant trouble. And he became more certain of the ticklish situation it was to cause, after he read the two pages of copy which described him in unreal, outlandishly romantic terms, as the Frodo Baggins of the Haight-Ashbury and "roguish hero and kingpin of the Diggers." The profile of him also outlined several of the anecdotes which he told to Hinckle III during their brief drinking session, and concluded with a lambent flame of intellect by advising the hippies that if they didn't start actively protesting with marches and rallies, instead of just living their protest, more and more youngsters would begin "to drop out of the arduous task of attempting to steer a difficult, unrewardin~ society" and the driving would be left to the
[end page 314]
Hells Angels. Whatever that meant, besides being an obvious attempt to strike terror into the hearts of lily-white liberals with a vision of descending anarchist hordes of outlaw bikers stuffing their wives' vaginas with Nazi swastikas and jamming motorcycle chains into their rectums with mental institutional force.
But Emmett wasn't concerned with the basic absurdity of the article's premise. He was preoccupied with the problem that was certain to stem from the publication of the crap in the first place. The kind of trouble he was anxious about wasn't anything the authorities or their law-enforcement flunkies might do, but rather, the brand he felt sure was going to be put on him as a result of the magazine's cheap glorification of him as a mock-hero. It was bound to cause friction with his brothers and sisters, and sure enough, when he walked into The Trip Without a Ticket, everyone acted like he had betrayed all of them by revealing himself as "their leader." Persons on the street greeted and waved to him with false respect but his own people felt cheated, and cold-shouldered him.
He tried telling them what happened, that he had nothing consciously to do with the setup, but they kept coming on like he intentionally hurt them in order to accept the plaudits of strangers. The HIP merchants were also undoubtedly convinced that he was behind the Ramparts story from its inception because the magazine spot-quoted him putting them down heavily.
The situation was bad and bound to get worse. All the people whom Emmett worked with and had turned on, even Tumble and especially the Hun, felt they had been used for his aggrandizement and fame. He decided to split, to hang it on the limb, until things cooled and the impact of the RMmparts story faded. He talked it over with the women who assured him the Free Food would continue, as long as somebody trucked the produce to them to be cooked. Tumble said he would see to it. Then, Emmett walked over to where Super-Spade, the black grass dealer, was standing in the cold, predusk fog outside the Mnasdika clothing shop on Haight Street and borrowed three hundred dollars from him, as a long-term loan.
Back at his pad on Fell Street, Emmett laid out his plans to Natural Suzanne, removed five hundred tabs of LSD from the one thousand he'd stashed before the Human Be-In, as a source of emergency funds, and flew to New York for half fare, using a youth card someone had given him for Christmas.
No sooner had he gone, than the San Francisco press and other
[end page 315]
newsmen from the national mass media swooped down on the Trip Without a Ticket looking for a story. They all wanted to interview the "longhaired hippie" who scoffed at his generation's talk of "love" as being merely a bullshit shuck, and who claimed that the Haight-Ashbury was nothing but a "Love Ghetto" populated by middle-class kids who were having "an adventure of poverty" and whom he fed from his Digger free soup kitchen. He was handsome with "the aquilined nose of a leader" and he had a good, jaunty, rebellious image about him, with that bold cap of his, and most of all, he wasn't Jewish! Yes, he had definite qualities and was good "star" material, but "where'd he go?"
When anyone inquired about him at the Trip Without A Ticket or any place in the Haight-Ashbury for that matter, they were laughed at and told "Emmett Grogan" was just a myth and didn't exist. The FBI eventually came around and took the Hun back to their offices for "routine questioning" about the Diggers, their Free Food and free store operations, and about the whereabouts of "Emmett Grogan." The Hun was careful to maintain the Salvation Army-Goodwill cover line, while expounding on his ideas for new wave theater, and claiming that the Diggers had simply made up "Emmett Grogan" as a mythical, nonexistent, heroic figure to fool the press. As for the photo in Ramparts, the Hun offered that it was a picture of an actor who had been a member of the Mime Troupe a while back, and had played a small part in an adaptation of Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy. The eight-by-ten glossy, he said, had been given to the radical magazine as a lark to perpetuate the legend of the nonexistent "Emmett Grogan." The FBI regarded the longhaired, shaggy Hun with such contempt and ridicule that they unquestionably fell for his "myth-making" line, and they dropped the "Emmett Grogan issue," filing it away as a prank.
Emmett returned to New York City on a Sunday. He always seemed to travel from place to place on Sundays because there were fewer people around, and it had become a habit when he was in Europe. He seldom if ever made any moves on a Saturday, which he considered a wrong time of the week for him, a jinxed day, for no other reason than that he was born on a Saturday, whatever the fuck that had to do with anything. But it did.
On the plane, he sat across the aisle from a young college student type dressed in a conservative suit and vest which he tried to academically liberalize with a wide-knot, cotton tie that had Day-Glo
[end page 316]
flower patterns all over it. His hair was also a little long in the back, but just a little, and he was intently reading Warren Hinckle III's fake "Social History of the Hippies" in Ramparts.
Emmett looked at this kid who would graduate to a mild, pageboy haircut and tie-dyed clothes within the next year or so, and he watched closely as the student read the last two pages of the article which were about him. It certainly seemed strange to Emmett to be sitting next to somebody who was reading about him and smiling and chuckling aloud over a few of the things he'd done as a character in some clown's idea of a short story. Very strange! For a moment Emmett wanted to take his IRA cap from his back pocket, put it on, tap the kid on the shoulder, point to the name "Grogan" in the article, then point back to himself and laughingly say, "That's me!" But only for a moment, because that wasn't what it was all about. "Nobody's on the make in this game. At least, I ain't," he thought to himself, and if he had been, he wouldn't have to tap no college kid on the back to be recognized, that was for sure. Every student in the country would know what he looked like, if he wanted them to. "Every motherfuckin' one of 'em!" he assured himself before falling asleep in a seat designed by a moron.
When he got to New York City, Emmett called up Candy Sand, a young, bouncy-cute woman who was secretary to an American literary figure and a sympathetic twenty-four-year-old with whom he had only recently become friendly over the long-distance telephone. She had gone to the same midwestern school with one of the women who now worked with Digger Free Food on the West Coast, and she told Emmett, "Of course, you can come over!" And further invited him to stay in her place for as long as he needed to, because she had lots of room, she said. "And lots of warm, bubbling hospitality, too," Emmett thought.
Her pad was on the Lower East Side at the corner of Second Street and Avenue A on the third floor of a turn-of-the-century tenement walk-up above a Spanish grocery store. It was rent-controlled at sixty-five dollars a month and the roomy interior had been inexpensively, but wisely renovated with natural colored, rough pine covering all the walls and cabinets, hiding the cracked plaster and peeled paint underneath, and giving the whole place an expensive, West Village modern look. It was also very comfortable and intelligently furnished with lots of cushions and soft places to sit or lie, and a red checkered cloth over one table to tell you it was part of the kitchen, which wasn't closed off, but open-walled toward the
[end page 317]
large front room. The light that came through the many clean windows on every side, filled the space with an airy, Scandinavian feeling.
It was hard to believe that it was just another walk-up pad in a Lower East Side tenement, and Emmett was very glad he was offered such pleasant digs where he could lie back and relax, refreshing himself with a few days' vacation for the first time in six months of Digger-free activities.
Candy was as sweet and cheering as her apartment, and she was graciously considerate of her guest, staying out of his way and giving him plenty of quiet time to rest and think about what he was into. Emmett thought quite a bit about that during those few days, comparing the Diggers with the other politico-social activist groups and their ideologies. He even came up with a name for the integrated assertions and aims of the Diggers' visionary theorizing. He called it the ideology of failure--"You got nothin', you got nothin' to lose." That's why everything the Diggers had done and did was "free."
Emmett also thought about all the radicals who were always so quick to call him and the Diggers anarchists, simply because they didn't openly espouse one revolutionary program or another. In their narrow, bigoted view, one had to be either a Marxist, Leninist, Trotskyite, Maoist, or hold to some combination of these ideologies, or else be politically categorized an anarchist. All those radical labelers ever did was read, write about or discuss the different revolutionary theories, dealing with semantics, while Emmett and the Diggers refused to discuss publicly or define the political dialectics of the work they never ceased to continue to do. Work which was alien neither to Marxism or Maoism, but at the same time needed neither to endure.
The Diggers didn't particularly care which ism they were putting into practice with their work and were also, in fact, mildly amused at the word-slinging radicals, who were as full of puritanical shit as the country's right wing was cowardly absurd.
Emmett lay lazily around the pad for three solid, quiet, fat days before he finally got an urge to go out and gander around the neighborhood. He decided not to look in on his family this time for many different reasons, but mainly because he didn't feel like making apologies for his new life-style. He tried to locate Billy Landout, who was off somewhere apparently traveling around the country. So, he was more or less alone, with everyone he now met in New York being a fresh face with no reference to his past.
[end page 318]
The streets were windy with smoke from the boilers, and cloudy with flakes of soot from the Con Edison plant on Fourteenth Street, which blackens the sky and pollutes the air of the Lower East Side. He walked north on Avenue A towards Tompkins Square Park, past bundled-up longhairs and thin-clad Puerto Ricans bopping along with their fists clenched inside their pockets against the cold, on their way to cop. He bought a World Journal Tribune and an East Village Other and entered an old-time ice-cream parlor and lunch counter called the Sweet Shoppe, where he sat in a booth and had a cup of coffee and a toasted English muffin.
It was two o'clock in the afternoon, and he felt good and rested from the long hours of sleep and doing nothing but eating Candy Sand's cooking and thinking about the past six months, which now seemed so long ago to him. But a short article in the East Village Other newspaper snapped it all back home. On the top of one of the inside pages was a story about the Glide Church meeting between the San Francisco Diggers and the HIP merchants that had been held several weeks before. The story was the same one which had been printed in the L.A. Free Press under Jerry Hopkins' byline, and it told about Emmett Grogan threatening to bomb the HIP merchants' shops if they refused to kick back some of their profits to the community.
Emmett got real fucking sore about the article all over again. He paid his check and steamed out of the Sweet Shoppe along Avenue A towards Ninth Street, and the address he read on the underground newspaper's masthead. The East Village Other's office was a storefront across the street from Tompkins Square Park and Emmett had no trouble finding it. There was a girl sitting at a desk which guarded the entrance to a back room where the next edition of the newspaper was being composed. Emmett told her he wanted to speak with the editor. She asked his name and "what about," and he said it was none of her business, and she replied that if he didn't answer her questions, he wouldn't get to see the editor. But he insisted, saying it was an "urgent personal matter," which seemed to make some sort of sense to her because she got up and went into the back room, giving him the cool eye as she turned.
The whole front portion of the outer office was crowded with back issues of the paper piled all over the floor, and the walls were entirely covered with the different poster-size front pages representing each and every edition of the newspaper that had been published since its birth. Emmett scanned the series of headline graphics
[end page 319]
papering the walls and noted that most of them dealt either with the bestiality or brutality of the police. He wondered whether the publisher and the editorial staff of the newspaper really hated cops that much, or were just catering to their readers, most of whom were students.
The girl returned and pointed him out to a paunchy, pale, baldheaded man in his early thirties wearing a baggy buttoned-down shirt turned brown at the collar by the stuffy steam-sweat-heat of three days' wear.
"Yes, can I help you?"
"Are you the editor?"
"I'm one of them."
"I want to speak with the person who's the head of this operation.
"You do, huh? Well, what's your name, and what's it you want to talk about?"
"The name is Grogan. Emmett Grogan, 'n what I want to talk about I'll tell the person in charge."
"I'll be right back," he said, and turned into the rear room.
The girl at the desk overheard the dialogue and was giving Emmett a different kind of once-over stare, now that she figured he was "somebody," but when skinhead returned with another dude, he told her to go for some coffee, and waited until she split before introducing the founder-publisher-executive editor of the East Village Other. Emmett immediately recognized him and his showy, auburn, handlebar moustache, as the guy had been bartender in Stanley's saloon on Avenue B, where Billy and he often went drinking during his leave from the army a year ago. But he didn't mention this to either of them, just shook their hands and stated his beef, pointing out that the article was stone bullshit and asking them if they understood the position it had placed him in, now that he was in New York.
"You see, when the mugs who own the territory around here find out that I'm in the neighborhood, they're going to think from reading this crap about me threatening to bomb the HIP shops out in San Francisco that I'm going to try the same thing here, try to strong-arm the hippie merchants who lease store space from them, the same way 'n they're going to get mad when they think that I'm muscling in on their thing, because that's what it comes down to in their eyes. There's nothin' political or social about it to them--just some guy tryin' to get a piece of the action 'n they're gonna take
[end page 320]
that personally--very personally, 'n fuck knows what'll happen! Now I gotta go see that they get set straight about what I'm into before they get the wrong idea about why I'm here, 'n do something I'll be sorry for--so, if anybody asks you about this article about me, you just tell 'em it was a mistake, 'n it's bullshit, because that's all that it is--bullshit! An' don't print anything else about me, either, understand. I don't need, want, or care for my name being in newspapers. So do me, and in the long run yourselves, a favor 'n don't write anything about me because you'll only interfere with what we're trying to do for the hip community, 'n I'm sure you wouldn't want to do that. Good! So we understand one another. Be seein' you." And he shook their hands again and left before they could reply or even say anything.
Later that night Paul Krassner, the lampoon editor of the satirical, leftist periodical newsprint magazine catcalled The Realist, which government authorities continually contended was blatantly pornographic, told Candy Sand about a community meeting being held that night in a Lower East Side loft to discuss the problems facing the "hip community of the East Village." Emmett had met Krassner in San Francisco when he was taking a VIP tour of the Haight-Ashbury with some of the HIP hierarchy, and he was impressed at how a man of such tiny physical stature could be such a gross smart-alec. He burned some of Krassner's money in response to a series of journalistic inquiries and also gave him some free acid, the mere giving of which had, for some cryptic reason blown Krassner's mind. So Emmett went to the community meeting with Candy Sand and Paul Krassner, where he was introduced to the East Coast's version of HIP. They weren't united under the same or any other name but were certainly uniform in their "hippie" manner and style, affecting a similar and possibly weightier identification with the psychedelic experience.
Most of the thirty-some-odd persons present at the meet were in their twenties, had been raised in upper-middle-class environments, had finished college and had dropped out of their establishment futures because they were bored and wanted a chance to put creativity back into their lives, to make an art out of living. They were more wordy and less spaced out than their San Francisco peers, and since the Lower East Side didn't exactly border any spectacular woodland or rolling green hills, they were more concerned with community politics than with the ecology of their environment. Even though they tried to dress up their surroundings by constantly
[end page 321]
referring to them as the "East Village," the neighborhood still refused to allow them room enough to escape or transcend the reality of its mean streets. The Haight-Ashbury, its population being largely hippie flower children, encouraged the myriad activity of the esoteric sciences, but the Lower East Side, peopled predominantly by blacks and Puerto Ricans and some Eastern European immigrant families, most of whom were either Ukrainian or Jewish, was a lowmoney environment where people thought flowers were a luxury because they died too easy, even when they had thorns, and transcendentalism an annuity a person got from the government when he reached age sixty-five.
No there was scarcely enough room to breathe, much less make believe on the Lower East Side, and Emmett listened as the talk centered on the ill treatment the arriving hippies were receiving from their black and Puerto Rican neighbors. He kept quiet until he felt that those assembled were wrongly, but eagerly convincing themselves that the Puerto Ricans and blacks were prejudiced against them solely because of their long hair and life-style, making them the country's "new niggers." This conclusion, that the hippies were ~he new niggers of America, seemed to delight the group, and they quickly began exchanging different tales of outright bigotry they had experienced.
Their histrionics in describing their scenes of personal discrimination sounded like the blackface hokum of the San Francisco Mime Troupe's minstrel show with lines like, "You know what really gets 'em crazy? Bare feet! When they see a longhair walkin' down the sidewalk in midwinter just after a snowfall with no shoes on, it blows their minds! 'N they don't know how to deal with it, so they get angry!" "Yea, 'n when they always see longhaired dudes with their arms around hippie chicks, it gets 'em wild because they know the hippies are makin' it together 'n they're not gettin' any!"
Emmett interrupted and ultimately curtained the show by simply pointing out that the Lower East Side of Manhattan had always been a tough neighborhood and in tough neighborhoods the new kid on the block always got beat up and ". . . in this case, the hippies who're moving into the tenements now are the new kids on the block, that's all, 'n they're being put down just like every other new group that moved there before 'em, 'n that may not be the way you want it in the East Village, but as long as the East Village is part of the Lower East Side, that's the way it's gonna be. But there's more to this trouble than the traditional old-slappin'-down-the-new rou
[end page 322]
tine or the longhairs freakin' out the shorthairs crap you've beenshootin'." And he continued his rap by laying down a few of the other beefs that the longer residents of the neighborhood had against the hippies.
They were especially upset, he said, because of the hippies' readied willingness to pay the higher rents and whatever-the-market-willbear prices fixed by the slumlords. This overcharging, coupled with the fact that the poor residents of the area knew damn well that most hippies came from the wealthy white suburbs of their American dream and therefore didn't really have to live in their low-class poverty neighborhood, aggravated their already deep dislike for the outgoing, jubilant hippie style, and ticked off a series of violent outbreaks to "wipe the smiles off their faces," because what the fuck were they so happy about anyway!
This spawned an attitude that the hippies could afford to be happy, paying the increased rents and inflated prices with "money from home," while the people who were really poor and not just "tripping," suffered the ironical burden of their presence. Thus they became the fair-game targets of people who needed some quick money fast, which was nearly everyone. The sight of a pair of wellfed hippies walking through the neighborhood, panhandling change against a backdrop of desperate bleakness may have appeared farcical to strangers, but to the people who lived their entire lives in the area, grew up there, it was a mockery, a derisive imitation of their existence and it got them angry. Plenty angry.
Besides this basic false role-playing of theirs and the increase in prices and rents they caused by moving in, Emmett went on to tell them that the hippies were also being blamed for the spreading of infectious hepatitis and venereal disease among the families in the area, as well as for the intensified police campaign of inundating the area with beefed-up squads whose patrols were spreading heat all over the place and putting an impossible strain on all illegal operations. This seriously hurt the community, because those "outside the law" activities were its financial backbone and constituted between 35 to 40 percent of the economy of the Lower East Side.
"So, as usual, it comes down to money again, but that's the way it's always been when a new bunch comes into a territory where another group has previously taken up residence, settled in, and has come to consider it their turf. The hippies present an economic danger to those people who've never been anything else but poor, and they've already proved to be a threat to the community in more ways than
[end page 323]
one. A threat not only to the neighborhood's flimsy economy, but also to the neighborhood people's values, hopes and dreams. You see, most of these people want, more than any of you could e~er not want, things like a pre-fab house out in the suburbs or a pre-fab apartment or bungalow back in Puerto Rico. They're just like all the other lower classes that came before them, dreaming of becoming middle class with all the trimmings that go with it. The difference between the Puerto Ricans and the others before them is that the Puerto Ricans aren't white, so they've become static in the lowmoney bracket, but they don't smell as bad, therefore they're not going nowhere as fast as the black people and are being permitted token breakthroughs here and there.
"What I'm getting at is that their dreams of someday makin' it out of what they regard as a sewer are very important to them, 'n when hippies come along riffin' about how unhip it is to make it into middle-class society 'n how easy it would've been for them to make it, but they didn't because it was insignificant, these lowmoney people get confused and upset because here are these creepy longhaired punks who grew up with meat at every meal and backyards to play in and the kind of education which is prayed to God for, and they threw it all away for what? To become junkies like at least one member of every family on the Lower East Side? To live with garbage and violence and rats and violence and no heat or hot water and violence and disease and violence? Is that what hippies thought was the hip thing to do with their lives? Well, to these people and their sons and daughters who've had no alternative but to live their lives in the disaster of the Lower East Side, there ain't nothin' hip about junk or poverty or violence, and they have nothing but contempt for young, educated fools who think it's exciting to live in a world they really know nothing about, the kind of world these kids' middle-class parents built the suburbs to protect them from.
"However, these parents never figured their children would attempt suicide by scaling the fortress walls of suburbia and running to the ghettos which had become part of their generation's fantasies--fantasy ghettos like the Haight-Ashbury and the Lower East Side where sidewalks were more real than the lawns of Westchester and where people were red-blooded human beings, instead of blanched, bloodless, cardboard automatons. The poor have no sympathy for these young whites who're searching out what was kept hidden from them. They have none at all because of the hippies'
[end page 324]
arrogance, an arrogance they wear on their sleeves, an arrogance which mocks the poor for wanting what they've rejected, and insolently pities them for not comprehending or understanding the reasons why they left the 'American Dream' behind.
"So, you better face the straight goods, brothers an' sisters. You ain't the new niggers or spics, 'n you're never gonna be. You have too much to fall back on whenever you want to or have to--good education, a home, family, the color of your skin--'n the people in the neighborhood know that, an' also that you're still the children of the ruling classes, whether you like it or not. As far as they're concerned, you're just having an adventure--an adventure in poverty which, if you aren't careful, may prove more real than you're ready to deal with."
The crowd in the loft didn't seem to like a thing Emmett said, primarily because he burst the underdog image they were casting for themselves. Nobody said anything after he stopped talking because, like it or not, everything he said seemed to be true. There was a silent pause for a moment, then a tough-looking Jewish bohemian woman in her late twenties asked Emmett what he thought could be done to relieve the troubled situation the hippies were facing in the Lower East Side and how they could hip the poor to the inherent lie of the American Dream and its middle-class accoutrements.
First of all, he said, they had to jettison the self-satisfying impression that they were the "new niggers"--which was going to be difficult. It was very comfortable on the bottom of the social heap where you could lie back, stay doped up and not accept any individual or community responsibilities, feeling perfectly hip about having been classed the new losers and doing everything by doing nothing to justify the classification. If they could get past that, Emmett continued, then they could apply their "fortunate" backgrounds in serving the needs of the neighborhood, not as "hip social workers," but as members of the community who wanted to develop it for themselves as a place where they could enjoy life and where their children could grow without being forced to attend the stifling institutions run by the city government.
They could start on their own by opening free day-care centers for the children, and later, free schools and free stores where they could hip the community to the truth about the American Dream and show them that the hippies weren't just passing through the neighborhood on a trip, but settling down and trying to build a life there for themselves. Afterwards, they could organize free block par
[end page 325]
ties and free rock concerts and Latin festivals in Tompkins SquarePark, and clean the streets and vacant lots of their garbage and abandoned cars, so they could be used by the people and their children without the danger of being bitten by rats. Then they could set about fixing up the tenements where they lived.
Someone who said he was a member of the Progressive Labor Party remarked: "That's all well and good, but don't you think that the people who will ultimately benefit from all this proposed cleaning up of the neighborhood and the renovation, say of the tenement dwellings, will be the persons who own all the buildings--the slumlords, and that if the area is made more pleasant, the people themselves will become more or less content with their situation and try to keep what they have, rather than revolt against the forces which keep them in oppression?"
"No!" Emmett fired back. "That's a trap: keep everything bad, in fact, make it worse to heighten the contradictions and educate the people, making them aware 'n letting them see the oppressor. Everyone vote for Ronald Reagan, so when he's governor of California repression will become real to the people and they'll rise up in revolution. Bullshit! They'll just turn in whoever's threatening them financially or personally, like the Jews on Long Island during the McCarthy fifties, and vote for Reagan again.
"People dig dictators and being told what to do, as long as they're benefiting from it, getting paid. As far as the Lower East Side slumlords go, if the streets of the neighborhood and the buildings get fixed up so they're pleasant and livable 'n the landlords try to evict the tenants who made the repairs so they can rent to faggots and secretaries who want a hip address, we'll defend ourselves and we'll kill them! It's as simple as that. An' don't anyone say that we won't be able to get at them because we won't be able to find out who they are or where they are. That's a myth! Because it's already been done before and will be again. We'll find out and don't nobody worry about that. We'll find out, even if they live in Dayton, Ohio, and we'll kill them. Once the people get it together and have a chance to live with a degree of comfort and in surroundings that aren't rat and disease infested and without having to scuffle all the time or hassle against impossible odds, nothing will be able to stop 'em until they get just as much as everybody else. Nothing! Until everybody's equal in a classless society and all have enough of what they need 'n nobody has to go hungry, so some fat man can eat baked Alaska at
[end page 326]
the Four Seasons, or his fat wife imported smoked salmon from Nova Scotia at Grossinger's.
"No, when the people get that inch they're going to want more than the proverbial mile. They're going to want all of it 'n the ones who own it are going to have to give it up or have it taken from 'em! 'N it's up to guys like me, up to us 'n others like us to get that inch for the people, so they can taste what it'll be like when those few who own everything are knocked out of the box, and the many can finally live like human beings, instead of like serfs in a kingdom run by a handful of aristocratic, robber-baron families. Up to ones like us, because we know about what low-money people can only dream about. We've experienced what they still hope for 'n we know what has to be done 'n how to do it.
"Most important, we don't have to do it. We don't have to do anything. We can survive comfortably without hardly hassling at all because we know how the monster works 'n thinks 'n we can manipulate it for our own ends. That's easy. But suppose we took it a step further 'n didn't fuck with it specifically for ourselves. Suppose we did what we know how to do for nothin', for no other reason than we know how to do it. Suppose we did it for free! Did what was necessary, so the people would have the inch they needed to get that first mile on the road to a social democracy, 'n did it all for free! We couldn't lose, 'cause when you start by doing it for free, for nothin', you got nothin' to lose and you're beyond the possibility of defeat! That's what's called the ideology of failure, and if you brothers and sisters would apply that to your lives and roles in the community instead of just playin' out your adventure of poverty, dead hands of fantasy, we'd be able to get it on in the Lower East Side, and rip-off that inch before anyone knew we weren't kidding! And the hippies would soon become an integral part of the community, rather than just depending on the passage of time to earn them acceptance."
Then Emmett spent an hour laying out what the San Francisco Diggers did in the Haight-Ashbury, explaining the overall difficulty of their work, and how they actually went about getting it all done. He was careful, however, not to give away any secrets or discuss how they obtained free goods by theft, because he didn't feel it was appropriate for a room full of people he didn't know, and in the end, would probably prove dangerous to him and his West Coast comrades. He did make a point though of showing the absurdity of the news media's description of the Diggers as "philanthropic do-good
[end page 327]
ers" and went on to explain the importance of anonymity in anyattempt to achieve individual or collective autonomy.
All the thinking Emmett had done during his lay-up at Candy Sand's pad had charged him with a new surge of energy, and he rapped for over two hours. When he finished, there was nothing really left to say or ask, except the obvious question which each of the New York City hip people assembled in the loft that night to discuss their "community problems" had to ask himself: was he or she really serious and together enough to begin the difficult work of serving the needs of the unrewarding Lower East Side and its people for nothing, for free, totally and uncompromisingly free. It was a question no one asked out loud, for each person had to deal with the answer to that one himself, later, and alone. "For the time being, anyway," Emmett thought, and everyone adjourned downstairs to a bar for a couple of beers before going their separate ways.
The group crowded around Emmett because he impressed them with his rap, and they pressed him for more answers to questions no one should have had to ask. It was funny how people at first always thought of him as just another "handsome lug" and a gang leader because of his reticence and rough exterior, until he began to talk, revealing that he knew fucking well what he was doing and exactly how to take command when he had to. It always seemed to amaze them that he wasn't an illiterate imbecile or a dumb dead-end kid or something. He often wondered why they had that image of him, and concluded that it was part of a "noble savage" hangup which made them imagine him as some sort of existential primitive hero who depended on his primate instincts and not much else to fulfill his assigned duties given to him by some mysterious cabal of revolutionary intellectuals who sought a merger of hippie radicalism and New Left politics.
It was a joke, all right, and Emmett often used it on people who insisted he was a "truly great leader," by replying that he just took orders over a pay telephone in a prearranged public booth in whatever city he was in. "They just call me up 'n I go 'n do what they tell me."
Less than a week after the "community meeting" in the Lower East Side loft, Emmett stopped into the East Village Other office to look over the latest issues of the few West Coast underground weeklies which were available there. He had been on the phone with his brothers and sisters in San Francisco several times during the previous two weeks he had spent in New York, and they'd told him
[end page 328]
everything was going all right with the Diggers and the HaightAshbury, but he still wanted to see what else had been occurring in the West. The skimpy and often fallacious news about those other activists and happenings was to be found only in the self-indulgent folds of California's underground press which, much to his regret, Emmett was forced to skim for some slightly relevant information.
He never got around to looking at those California weekly undergrounds, however, because his eyes caught a glimpse of something tacked to the side wall as he was walking into the back room: the galley proofs of the copy for the next edition of the East Village Other, and one article's headline caught hold of Emmett and stopped him. He read the bold letters, DIGGER LOGORRHEA, and pulled the copy off the wall, reading it fast and wincing every time his eyes ran over the name Emmett Grogan. The girl who was sitting at her desk post got up and went into the back room when she saw from the look on Emmett's face what might happen.
He was furious! Not only had they not respected his appeal to them not to print anything about him in their paper, but either through incredible stupidity or malicious intent, they falsely reported the rap he gave a week before at the loft, attributing things to him which neither he nor anyone else had ever said that night. The article quoted him as having declared that an outbreak of terrorism was necessary to educate the people and force the exploiters of the counterculture to their knees to make them give away all their goods to the community for free! It was outrageous! Stone fucking lies, all of it! He could hardly believe it, and when he looked up and saw the skinhead editor standing there alongside the handlebar-moustached founder, publisher, executive editor, he blew it!
"What the fuck do you call this shit, huh? Well, what is it, motherfucker! "
"Hey, listen, this is a newspaper and we print . . ."
"You're fulla shit, it's a newspaper! It's a bloody, fuckin' rag!"
"We print stories our readers expect us to."
"Stories7! Fuckin', bold-faced, bullshit lies, you mean!"
"Look, we were there, both of us, 'n we heard . . ."
"You heard shit! There's not one thing in here that's even half true. It's all lies and you know it. Both of you motherfuckers know it! Nothing but fuckin' lies!"
"Look, that's debatable. You may think . . ."
"Debatable, my motherfuckin' ass! It's all a lie, 'n a stupid, dumb
[end page 329]
corny pack of lies, too! You're not even slick enough or smart enough for anyone but a cretin to believe that I said any of this bullshit, that anyone even talks this way! You two-bit motherfuckers ! "
"Well, why don't you write your own version of what happened and we'll print both of them to let . . ."
"You'll print shit! Nothin'! you hear! Not one fuckin' word about me, ever!"
The two of them looked at one another, and realizing that Emmett wasn't going to give them back the galley proof of the article, the handlebar moustached publisher grabbed for it and Emmett shoved him away, sending him crashing into a pair of file cabinets. Skinhead only moved his hands to adjust his glasses, apparently trying to call Emmett's attention to the fact that he was wearing them, and the look on his face seemed to say, "New York State gives persons twenty years in prison for hitting a man with glasses." The founder-publisher stood his distance well behind the desk and nervously threatened, "Listen, if you don't give us back that article and leave this office without any more trouble, I'm going to call the police ! "
Emmett had to laugh. Here he was, standing in the middle of a room whose wallpaper pictured cops as vicious storm-trooping Nazi animals, and the publisher of the East Village Other was going to call them to arrest him! Incredible! Emmett continued to laugh as he tore the galley proof into tiny pieces and threw them into the air. Walking toward the front door and the street, he kept laughing, and the founder-publisher twitched his handlebar moustache and trembled furiously as he tried to make like he was really dialing for the cops. Emmett tried to encourage just that by prompting him to "go 'n fuck your dead mother!" as he walked out the door into the brisk, early spring afternoon, wondering whether he had provoked the punk-faced dude into actually completing his call to the police.
Emmett didn't intend to lose any sleep over it, and for the next couple of days, he roamed around the Lower East Side looking up the people he met at the loft meeting and checking out their various activities. He spoke about guerrilla theater with the Angry Arts, a group of politically conscious artists, and described the Communication Company operation to the Black Mask, a band of radical pamphleteers who were printing leaflets. He talked about how to finance economic collectives and business cooperatives to achieve financial independence and token autonomy from the state with
[end page 330]
Chino Garcia, a mammoth twenty-two-year-old Puerto Rican and affable ex-gang leader who was in charge of the Real Great Society. This was a Puerto Rican cooperative business venture and community action group which also ran a free school, appropriately called the University of the Streets. He discussed hip political issues over a telephone hook-up with the audience on Bob Fass's midnight WBAI listener-sponsored radio show called Unnameable. He got to know the black leaders of the neighborhood by drinking a couple of beers every day in PWee's bar on Avenue A and spoke the language with the Italians while shooting pocket billiards with them in their pool hall across the street from PWee's.
When several members of the San Francisco Mime Troupe were performing their controversial minstrel show at the University of Calgary in Alberta, and got jailed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for having a marijuana seed lodged in one of the wardrobe trunks, Emmett, with the help of the friends he made since he arrived in the city, organized a series of demonstrations in front of the Canadian Consulate in New York. He also spoke to the consul in charge, with poets Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, whom he had finally met at the Chelsea Hotel and with whom he'd shared several hustler-gourmet meals at Grant's restaurant on 42nd Street. The consul took quite a battering during their conference, with Gregory slamming his fist on his desk and loudly demanding the actors' release, and Emmett firing unanswerable, hard, quick questions at him, and Allen calmly implying it all seemed to be highly repressive, while also remarking that the facts lent themselves to a possible charge of collusion on the part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to interfere with the rights of American citizens.
The protests and news coverage of the demonstrations helped, but it was Emmett's phone call to the Canadian theater critic Nathan Cohen, and Cohen's subsequent column in the Toronto Star that freed R. G. Davis and the others from the inevitable long prison term which would have followed their trial on trumped-up charges. The charges were dismissed because of the adverse publicity in Canada stirred up by Cohen's dynamite column, and R. G. Davis and the Mime Troupe are forever grateful to Mr. Cohen for his righteous defense of socially relevant theater.
It was only after Emmett had acquainted himself with the various action projects on the Lower East Side that he realized there was really no feeling of community among the hip artists, and no real sense of belonging to the neighborhood. They were more involved
[end page 331]
in protesting national issues like the war in Vietnam, than in getting their own streets cleaned of filth and made livable. In fact, they seemed to dig living in a slum and like the smelly garbage strewn all over the place. It gave it a romantic look, one of the members of the Angry Arts commented.
One thing was for sure. If any of the things he talked about at the loft meet were ever going to get done, it was certain that he would have to take a large hand in the work, and he wasn't sure he wanted to spend that kind of time in the East. His brothers and sisters in San Francisco had told him the West Coast was clear for him to return, and he was anxious to get back there and continue the work he started. But Natural Suzanne, Fyllis, the Hun and a new poetic plum of a woman named Lacey Pines, who joined in the Free Food activity of the San Francisco Diggers a month before, were all on their way to New York, and so Emmett decided to wait for them before going back. Until then he continued to immerse himself in the neighborhood, working with the action groups and offering the advice of his experience.
The one thing Emmett really wanted to accomplish on the streets of the Lower East Side was their cleaning. He felt that if all the garbage and abandoned cars could be removed from the alleys and vacant lots of the neighborhood by late spring, the community would have a better chance of making it happen during the summer. The East Village artists could construct playgrounds for the kids in the empty lots and the hippies could organize block parties and street fairs on the weekends. After their streets had been cleaned, the black and Puerto Rican residents would be put in the position of keeping them that way and defending against persons from other blocks dumping their refuse there. When the whole area was completely cleaned up, Emmett felt it would breed a community spirit and lay the foundation for the solidarity needed for more community action.
Everyone with whom he talked about it agreed that the removal of garbage from the area and a general cleaning of the neighborhood was the first major service that had to be completed before the people would respect or see any value in forming a coalition among all the community groups. It was the kind of action that would make the advantages of joining forces obvious and would be accepted as totally neutral since it benefited everyone equally. But how do you get rid of years of waste, tons of heavy-duty debris from the nearly one hundred separate streets which make up the neighbor
[end page 332]
hood, and get it all done before summertime? It was no small featand Emmett went around discussing it with the different community groups, trying to come up with an angle, a way to get it taken care of. At the same time, Bob Fass began talking about the problem on his radio program, and after a few nights of discussing it with his audience and his guests he came up with the lame idea of having a series of "Clean-In's" to be held every weekend until the Lower East Side was cleaned up. He invited all the members of the listening audience to come to a specific street in the neighborhood that Saturday to participate in the first Clean-In.
They came, all right! About two hundred of them from all the different boroughs and suburbs of New York City, carrying protest signs about the various social evils which were bred by filthy streets and sporting the buckets and mops and the wire brushes and cleansers with which they intended to realize the first of the CleanIns. They were all in a jocular brotherly mood as they grouped in the middle of the street for what they considered to be a social event, something like a hayride. The people who lived on the block hung out of their windows looking down on the milling, mostly white kids, who were discussing how they should go about attacking the problem of "helping the poor help themselves."
They were quite a sight, these boys and girls--who grew up in places where there were lawns to play on and trees to climb--as they separated into pairs and walked to different spots along the block, wearing their casual "Saturday work clothes" which they always wore whenever there was a car to be washed or leaves to be raked at home. They kept to themselves and the people who lived there left them alone, just watching as they swept up paper with their brooms or actually got down on their hands and knees to scrub a patch of sidewalk spic and span.
That's what was really so pathetic and absurdly futile about the Clean-In. In the center of a neighborhood which averaged six to eight abandoned cars per square block, you had a group of weekend hippies on their hands and knees frantically washing away some stain of middle-class guilt from the pavement, while tons of real garbage remained untouched, clogging all the lots and alleys. The arrogance of it was so outrageous and obvious to almost everyone, that Bob Fass announced on his radio show that there would be no more Clean-Ins because most people from the Lower East Side neighborhood felt that they were a bummer, and he had to go along with their feelin~s because, after all, they did live there!
[end page 333]
Emmett pondered the depths of vanity and self-indulgence required to organize such jive-ass events as the Clean-Ins, before directing his attention to the serious matter of relieving the neighborhood of its abundant and weighty loads of trash and scrap metal. He was convinced it was going to require a fleet of trucks to make the number of hauls needed to clear the area, and that fleet would have to meet some sort of schedule if there was to be any hope of getting the job done before summer. But how was anyone ever going to arrange for the trucks to appear in the first place? "Where are they all supposed to come from?" Emmett was thinking to himself over a cup of coffee one morning. He hadn't made very much progress in locating the trucks when he noticed what turned out to be the solution to the problem on the front page of the morning paper-- the good old New York Times!
In the lower right-hand corner of page one, almost lost--like only a front page story can be lost by the Times--was a brief headline announcing a developing scandal within the city's private sanitation companies. This one-liner was followed by an article reporting the progress of some committee that was investigating several reports of kickbacks and payoffs to various city officials for their help in assigning city contracts to the area's private sanitation companies which were alleged to be controlled by organized crime. The story went on to detail a specific instance of alleged corruption on the part of one city agency official in collusion with the head of a reputed crime syndicate family "with its headquarters on Elizabeth Street in Lower ~anhattan's Little Italy." The reputed head of the Elizabeth Street crime family was none other than Don Signore Jimmy Peerless himself, and Emmett, immediately understanding the kind of trouble the private sanitation companies found themselves in, flashed on the idea that they could use a sizable dose of good publicity in the New York press. He wondered how receptive they would be to a little public relations advice from him. Well, he would know soon enough because he was going to speak with the men in charge in the same place he spoke with them almost exactly ten years ago to the day, as one of the Aces Wild who came to their section of Little Italy to go against the Chaplains in a game called Ringolevio.
There was also a good precedent for the offer he was about to extend the "family" men who used the Elizabeth Street Cefalu Social Club as the headquarters for the overseeing of their private sanitation companies, as well as their other varied business inter
[end page 334]
ests. The precedent showed that active concern for the welfare ofthe poorer elements in a "family's" territory was always good for business, as well as being beneficial to the family's public image.
The precedent which Emmett recalled later that afternoon in Italian to the gentlemen of respect at their Cefalu Social Club on Elizabeth Street, took place in South Brooklyn during the summer of '66, less than a year before The possibility of a dangerous and potentially disastrous giant rumble occurred over the integration of a predominantly white high school in the East New York-Flatbush section of Brooklyn, and hundreds of cops were sent to patrol the area between the last days of July and the first week in August while thousands of kids roamed the streets fighting, looting, and burning down whatever stores they considered part of enemy turf. In a desperate final effort to end the madness and avert the colossal rumble which was set to be staged at any moment, the Lindsay administration got Relocation Commissioner Frank Arricole to contact the Gallo brothers, Larry and Al, through their lawyer, and arranged for them to get past police lines hopefully to persuade the Italo-American kids, who ganged together to stomp the niggers from integrating, to go home and stop making trouble.
At that time, the Gallo brothers were still involved in a much publicized gangland war with the Profaci-Colombo family that began back in '60 and escalated in the summer of '61, after the oldest of the three brothers, Larry Gallo, was lured one Sunday afternoon to the Sahara cocktail lounge in Brooklyn, where two men came out of the back of the darkened saloon while Larry was standing alone at the bar and tossed a piano wire around his throat and started to strangle him. A police sergeant happened by, intervened, and got a bullet in his face. The two shadowy hit-men got away and Larry Gallo lived to step up the war along with his two brothers, Crazy Joe who was eight years younger and kept a fullgrown lion in his office on President Street for protection during the gangland warfare, and Albert "Kid Blast" the youngest of the three, who turned out to be an ineffectual leader which got him renicknamed "Kid Blister."
The Gallo Gang's continuing warfare in Brooklyn earned them a lot of very bad press because of the twelve dead bodies that were found and the twelve more missing and wounded. So, Larry Gallo naturally jumped at the chance to muster a little public goodwill for himself and his gang by doing the community a service it had asked of him. He arrived in a black Riviera at the intersection which
[end page 335]
served as a meeting place for the Italo-American gang kids and was greeted with a VIP celebrity welcome by the kids and cops alike. With his kid brother Crazy Joe in prison, and his youngest brother, Kid Blister Al, having proved a washout, it was left up to Larry Gallo himself to get the leaders of the Italo-American kids to tell their gang to break it up and go home. He approached those kids who he knew had influence and control over the gang, and simply told them all to go home. One white kid began with a "But the niggers--" and Larry Gallo smacked him in the mouth, dropping him cold to the ground. By nightfall, there were no kids on the streets and there was no more trouble, big or little, after that.
For his service to the community, Larry Gallo got his picture taken with his arm around Mayor Lindsay and another city hall guy, and the next day the photo was on the front page of every newspaper in the city with Larry Gallo's broad smile grinning from ear to ear right above the ligature scar on his throat where the piano wire had left its mark. All the captions in the metropolitan newspapers had remarked something to the effect that Larry Gallo was probably a good guy at heart.
The gentlemen of respect listened as Emmett went on to detail the proposal he felt would aid them in their present unfortunate situation and afford them a public platform to prove their goodwill by cleaning up their neighboring Lower East Side community-- from which they could exact a series of tributes in the form of press conferences and releases implying the moral and social responsibility of their private sanitation companies.
Then he laid out a plan whereby the eighty-five separate blocks making up the Lower East Side could be cleared of all debris within the following two and a half months. By dividing the area into ten distinct sections, he figured that a fleet of ten or more of the private sanitation companies' giant green garbage trucks could haul away enough of the rubbish to clean all of the lots and alleys of the community in eight consecutive Saturdays' work, leaving the city glaringly responsible for the removal of the abandoned cars.
Emmett spent over an hour rapping about his idea and making his proposal clear to the gentlemen of respect, assuring them that he would guarantee total press coverage of any community service they chose to perform on the Lower East Side. Now it was up to them, and he sipped at his very hot cafe espresso and Grappa Liquore, as the gentlemen of respect discussed his proposition among themselves in a Sicilian dialect only they could understand.
[end page 336]
Finally they turned their attention back to Emmett and informed him that they would agree to try it out to see how it worked on the following Saturday morning, which was only three days away. " 'N you better make sure you got everything covered, kid, 'cause we gotta pay our men overtime from the time they show up at eight o'clock on Saturday morning to the time they finish up. So don' you go fuckin' up, 'cause there's lots a money we puttin' out to see this thing gets done right. So you better do your best like us, see, or you're gonna have a lot to answer to us for, if you fuck things up somehow. So, don't! It's a good idea, but we don' wanna throw no money away for nothin' you understand?! So, you make-a damn sure it counts front page! Okay, you a good kid. Now, what you gettin' outta all this?"
Emmett told them a line about how he wanted to give everyone on the Lower East Side a chance to live together in peace and harmony without the filth of garbage that had accumulated because of the city sanitation department's criminal neglect of the neighborhood. It was exactly their criminal neglect which he hoped to expose with the generous cooperation of the private sanitation companies who were being wrongly slandered by those same city hall officials.
Emmett shook all their hands before walking out into the crisp evening air of Hester Street for his long but enthusiastic walk back to the pad on Avenue A, thinking for a moment about the last time he was on Hester Street and what he came there for then, and also briefly wondering whether Willie Pondexteur was still in the penitentiary at Dannemora, or paroled by now, or dead. It seemed such a long time ago that Emmett hurried to push the thoughts of that day out of his mind, thinking instead about how he had to keep the upcoming Saturday cleanup very quiet, and at the same time organize slick press coverage of the event.
But even though Emmett maintained tight security about the project for Saturday, word of the cleanup by the private sanitation companies got to the wrong people in the East Village and they leaked it to the city government administration, who flooded the Lower East Side neighborhood with their own department of sanitation trucks on Friday, and copped all the publicity for the city of New York. Several Puerto Rican gangs--with whom Emmett had discussed the proposal he made to the Elizabeth Street "good people"--were outraged by the city's publicity stunt cleanup, after having always avoided their community in the past. They printed
[end page 337]
up reams of paper on the Black Mask's mimeograph machines and went up to the rooftops bordering the streets and tossed them into the air to float down to where the department of sanitation men were working. The leaflets all said the same thing in big black block letters: PICK ME UP, MOTHERFUCKER! And the sanitation men did, just as they picked up the other symbol of the modern slum, the mounds of broken glass which were everywhere. In the contemporary nonreturnable world of the Lower East Side, bottles were only good for throwing and not for the regular two cents or nickel deposit they had been worth a few short years before.
The fire department was there too, giving out stuffed fluffy animals to the children as an expression of their goodwill to the innercity ghetto community. There were two types of small stuffed animals packed by the gross in boxes. One set was small black kittens with white faces and the other was a thousand or more tiny gray mice with black button eyes. As if the children of the Lower East Side didn't have enough real mice to play with in their own kitchens! Was it just that the firemen were all so blind dumb from their weekly whiskey-beer bashes in Staten Island and strangers to the reality of the neighborhood they were paid to protect, or was the giving away of the stuffed mice to the children a conscious insult meant to demean the residents of the community? The children didn't really care to figure it out, assuming instead that the firemen knew what they were doing. When the fire department officers sitting on top of their bright red hook-and-ladders cheerfully handed the tiny gray cotton-stuffed playthings to the children lining the sidewalk, the kids didn't return the smiles, but simply stared blankly back at the men who were supposed to be "public servants," and dropped the little toy mice into the gutter where the water being used to wash down the back alleys ran off the sidewalks and carried the hundreds of make-believe rodents to the whirlpool over the sewer at the end of the block. The last thing that could be seen of the sinking toy mice was the glimmer of their shiny black button eyes, as they congested at the mouth of the corner sewer, like a rush hour crowd pushing and shoving and cramming together into subway trains to get somewhere ahead of god-knows-who.
At first, Emmett had no idea who informed the mayor's office of the planned Lower East Side cleanup on Saturday by the private sanitation companies. But it didn't take him long to figure out that it was one of the self-proclaimed leaders of the East Village hippies who did it just to make Emmett look bad in the eyes of the gentle
[end page 338]
men of respect, and also to prevent him from accomplishing thekind of community service which would make him a more powerful neighborhood figure. And he didn't believe it was done to him out of pure jealousy either, by some political careerist dude who was on the make for a piece of the area's leadership pie. No, it was the work of a person or persons who didn't want him taking care of business in their territory and thereby disrupting the status of their already established hierarchy of East Village hipsters. However, Emmett had no time to waste at that moment playing "Who done it?" He had to contact the "good people" and let them know what went down and that he hadn't been directly responsible, and "maybe next time."
He thought it was wiser for him to talk with the gentlemen of respect over the telephone just in case they felt it was all his fault for some off-the-wall reason of their own. Early that evening he called the Cefalu Social Club, but nobody wanted to talk over the phone, and before he could make up some excuse about not being able to go over there, they sent a car to pick him up and bring him back to Elizabeth Street. The gentlemen of respect were a bit cold toward him, but their stone-faced looks seemed to understand that Emmett wasn't entirely to blame for whatever had gone wrong, and there was no reason for them to believe that Emmett had anything to do with leaking the information of their planned operation to the mayor, so they shrugged it off as a try, as a "You win some, you lose some." They told Emmett it was a good idea. "You have any more, you come tell us, understand? Maybe it works out better next time, okay? Good. But you gotta learn the people you dealin' with over there on the East Side, a little bit about Silencio, before you come back with any more ideas, right? Or it just end up to be a waste of time. So long now. See you sometime. An' remember, tell everybody to keep their goddamn mouths shut from now on, 'n you, too. This should be a lesson to you that you need to have some respect for omertd if you ever want to get things done, right? Allora, arrivedella. E stai attento, capisci?"
"Si, d'accordo, Don Signore. Arrivederci, Signori.
Emmett forgot about most of that business shortly thereafter, only thinking once in a while about how long the city's department of sanitation was going to keep up their goodwill cleanup of the Lower East Side, and about exactly who tipped them off in the first place. But after a while he even forgot about that, since once they
[end page 339]
started removing the tons of garbage from the area, public pressure insisted that the department of sanitation continue until the job was done, and slowly but surely they were doing just that. As far as figuring out who the informer was, Emmett narrowed it down to someone connected with the East Village Other, and there was no great need for him to peg whoever it was any further, because it really didn't matter who the individual had been, as long as he knew which cabal the dirty rat motherfucker belonged to.
One evening Emmett was walking crosstown to the East Side from the lower West Side where he had just cased that district's wholesale produce market and meat-packing houses. He was thinking about hustling some vegetables and ripping off a truckload of meat to give each block on the Lower East Side two sides of beef or a full steer to butcher and distribute among themselves. It was a good idea, and he uas assured by at least one Puerto Rican street gang and by a few blacks at PWee's saloon that they would help get the meat shared through the neighborhood as quickly as humanly possible before it went bad, or before the cops, who were known to be stea]ing meat themselves, got pissed at someone else taking what they considered to be their private loot and caught on to who did it and where the haul had been taken.
It was only when Emmett remembered that the neighborhood was comprised of approximately eighty-five separate streets without counting any of the avenues, that he was able to realize the enormity of the job. It added up to a whole lot of fucking meat! About 170 sides of beef or eighty-five whole cows would have to be liberated and distributed among the people, if everyone was going to get an equal taste and the community was to be treated as a whole with no one section being left out to later claim unfair treatment.
"Ooooeee! Is it ever gonna be one motherfucker of a score!" Emmett smiled to himself, while also vowing that if he ever did pull it, Robin Hood would have to be goddamn extra careful this time or he would end up paying more dues for this caper than he thought possible. For no matter how popular the heist would be in the eyes of the people, Inspector Raymond Maguire, the crackerjack head of New York City's Safe and Loft squad, had just been recently placed in charge of a special truck unit because of some big midtown hijacking, and he would bury Emrnett in some upstate penitentiary, the same way he would have if he had nabbed him back in the Christmas season of 1958, when he successfully worked Park Avenue to pay for the kind of freedom which could no longer satisfy him. It
[end page 340]
would certainly be ironic, to say the least, for him to be popped by Inspector Maguire after all those years. Busted for stealing some fucking meat! "Hot damn, Vietnam!" as the man said.
Emmett snatched a giant orange from a fruit stand outside an Italian grocery store and continued along Bleecker Street, deftly turning the fruit over and over with the tips of his fingers, peeling it in such a way that the rind remained intact--a two-foot-long streamer of bright orange skin which would have made Ilse Koch proud. He tossed it into someone's garbage can and bit into the pulp, noisily sucking the juice from the fruit and letting it drip down his chin and squirt up his nose. When he finished off the orange, he licked his lips to savor the last of it, and dangled his forearms away from his body, flapping his wrist-limp hands in the crisp cool air to shake them dry. A little further along the 300 block of Bleecker Street, he scooped up a ball of shaved ice from a fish stand in a market and washed away the stickiness.
Emmett enjoyed the afternoon alone among the trucks and stalls in the lower west side of Greenwich Village marketplace which was about to be relocated to the Hunt's Point district of the Bronx. He had been surrounded and hounded by people whom he didn't know ever since he came out of his seclusion at Candy's place a few weeks ago, and today was the first time he really had all to himself. He liked being alone, and he guessed it was because he didn't feel as lonely when he was all by himself which was sort of selfish, but fuck it! It was better than being encircled by lots of people who were all looking at him, hanging on his every word without really caring or understanding what it was he was actually saying. That's when he really felt the almost overwhelming loneliness, which often filled him with despair and a desperate longing for a good woman, a home and some kids to love and be loved by--his own family in a small house in the South of France or in the Southwest of the United States. But it always seemed too much for him to ask, when so much that should have been done in the Book of Revelations wasn't done and now had to be done, so there would finally be something new under the sun. Anyway, he would probably just get bored with a family of his own and blow it. He was still too young, after all, to feel as old as he fe]t.
His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by someone shouting his name from across Bleecker Street, and he turned to see a young couple crossing over to him from Liberty House, a storefront enterprise that had been organized by the remarkable black woman Fan
[end page 341]
nie Lou Haimer, to retail goods which were handmade by poorblacks in Mississippi to finance various civil rights activities in the South and to provide some small money for their own meager existence.
Emmett watched the pair as they came toward him through the traffic. The guy appeared to be in his early thirties, had a big nose, a stumpy body, and a large head which was made to seem bigger by a mop of curly, black hair. The girl whose hand he was holding was in her middle twenties, had a short-cropped pageboy haircut, buck teeth, and was pertly pretty the way young stenographers in a steno pool look pretty compared to the sagging hags who've been sitting in front of the same typewriters for forty years.
They were both broadly smiling when they bounced over to his side of Bleecker Street, and they seemed delighted to have bumped into Emmett whom they said they had briefly met at the now famous loft meeting weeks before. The guy introduced himself as Abbie Hoffman and the woman as his old lady Anita, and went on to ask Emmett if he was walking over to the East Side, and if so "do you mind if we walk along with you 'cause we live in a pad on Saint Mark's Place, 'n we're on our way there now." Emmett said, "Sure!" he didn't mind, and the three of them began moving east with this guy, whom Emmett insisted on calling Abbot, bending Emmett's ear all the way.
First he remarked how impressed he had been by Emmett's rap at the loft that night and how hip it was. Then he commented about how the Ramparts article had been a heavy turn-on for a lot of radicals like himself, showing them all how the hippie movement held a wealth of political potential and should be approached in the same manner and style that Emmett used to establish the socio-political Diggers in the Haight-Ashbury. After that, Hoffman talked mostly about himself, running down his own biography and describing the many roles he had played as a member of the radical movement.
Abbot's old lady Anita didn't say anything, content just to give her old man a glowing look of approval once in a while, as Emmett listened to him tell his life stories: how he'd been a pool shark as a youngster in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and a helluva shoplifter and a slick hustler of all sorts. He also kept pointing out that he'd been a heavy activist in the radical movement for over a decade, "before anyone had ever heard of Emmett Grogan, ha! ha! ha!" And he went on to tell about how he worked for SNCC in the South where
[end page 342]
he was sort of press agent--public relations liaison man for them and the other civil rights groups, as well as being the man behind Stokely Carmichael, writing his speeches among other things, and on and on.
Emmett could clearly hear the guy's hunger pangs in the anxious sound of his voice. Abbot had been working in the "movement" for over ten years, always in the background, while others reaped the glorious laurels of fame, and now he was approaching his fortieth birthday--within a few years he was actually going to be forty fucking years old!--and nobody would ever have heard of him!
"The guy must fall asleep with fantastic dreams of grandeur every night," Emmett thought, but he didn't think it mattered to him one way or another, and so he accepted when Hoffman invited him inside his pad for a beer. Once they were there, Abbot continued to profile himself as a heavyweight who also knew his way around the East Village, all the while hinting that he would be a good man for Emmett to work with. But even though it was true that Emmett didn't have a tight working partner in New York City, he had no intention of getting next to Hoffman, at least not that way, anyhow. The guy did seem more than enthusiastic and energetic enough, however, so Emmett agreed to work with him now and then whenever something relevant came along to benefit the Lower East Side community. And that was Emmett's mistake. He didn't know it at the time. He might have had a slight inkling, but he really didn't know that he was making a serious mistake in getting involved with Hoffman, in allowing Hoffman to get involved with him. A blunder that he was only to discover he had made after it was far too late to rectify.
They were into their third or fourth can of beer when Emmett became buzzed by the juice and got trapped by his own ego and began riffing about what he was into on the West Coast and hoped to get into on the Lower East Side. He also rapped heavily about the importance of anonymity in getting things done, and Hoffman loudly agreed before he started to quiz Emmett, picking his brains for the secrets to the Diggers' style and their keys to being "political hipsters." Abbot carried on his interrogation like a cop, intently searching out clues, trying desperately to understand what he'll never understand.
The next day, Emmett compounded his initial mistake by stopping by the Hoffmans' ground floor pad at 30 Saint Mark's Place and dropping off a load of San Francisco Digger leaflets and Com
[end page 343]
munication Company news handouts which Abbot had said hewould have reprinted and distributed throughout the Lower East Side in the hope of organizing the same type of news service for that lower Manhattan area. But in reality Hoffman had some different plans of his own, which didn't particularly concern the establishment of a Lower East Side Communication Company. He wanted to employ whatever information he could garnish from the set of papers for his own benefit, to study and learn the new words he would need to use if he ever hoped to mask himself successfully as a radical, hip politico, and street theater director. In that pile of papers which Emmett had unthinkingly left with Hoffman, was all the education Hoffman needed to pass himself off as a political hipster. The assortment even included the Hun's bright and original "Trip Without a Ticket" essay on guerrilla theater, as well as all the other significant Digger writings that were printed during the past year in San Francisco and were destined to soon become the private textbook pages of a street theater manual and hip lexicon for Abbot Hoffman and his East Village cronies in their quest for personal recognition as national figures in a mock-revolutionary movement of masquerade, just "for the hell of it!"
Emmett didn't see what was happening and didn't even notice the carnival that was going on around him because he was blinded by his own ego, bathing in the respect that the East Village underground was showing him. A respect he was being granted by the counterculture hippies because he refused to become a public figure to the squares, never giving any interviews to the press or accepting any of the many offers he received to appear on various radio and television talk shows. His strict adherence to his own code of anonymity quickly made him a unique and legendary figure in the underground, and he knew that. So he nurtured that image by being more secretive and making his simple anonymity seem unnecessarily mysterious.
One night a beat political group who called themselves the Anarchists were going to throw a party in an Avenue B loft which belonged to the founder-publisher of the East Village Other, and they invited Emmett as well as all the people he could get to come. "Are you guys sure you want me to invite all the people I can get in touch with to come to your party?" "Yes! Invite as many people as you can. Invite the whole fucking city if you want! Everyone!"
So he did. The party was called the Anarchists' Ball and Emmett demonstrated his own anarchistic touch by telephoning Bob Fass
[end page 344]
at WBAI and a few other radio personalities who had their own shows on different stations, informing them of the Anarchists' Ball and asking them to make spot when-and-where announcements about the party to their listeners who were all to be told they were invited. " 'N tell 'em to bring their own refreshments!"
So many people showed up at the Avenue B loft that night that the Anarchists' Ball had to be relocated across the street to Tompkin's Square Park with everyone telling everyone else they had been invited by "Emmett Grogan" whom nobody could find because he wasn't there. He went to the movies to see The Thief, a modern quasi-silent film starring Ray Milland, which has only a bit of dialogue and is seldom revived in theaters since it was made over twenty years ago. The estimated crowd of three to four thousand at the Anarchists' Ball had the cops freaked and thinking that there was about to be a riot or that some sort of gang war was going to happen. The Anarchists were delighted that their Anarchists' Ball had really turned into something chaotic and a true expression of their love for Kropotkin, Proudhon, and nihilist Dadaism, and they all agreed that Emmett Grogan was an anarchist extraordinaire. Since so many people who didn't know what he looked like were looking for him, one of the head Anarchists, Paulsky, assumed the name "Grogan" and went around through the gathering, passing as Emmett and shaking hands and making cracks about how the cops, who encircled the streets bordering the park with lines of bluecoated reinforcements from neighboring precincts, were all scared shitless by the mob.
There was certainly no doubt that the cops were definitely confused and perplexed by the large gathering of people, who were in a cheerful party mood, chugging wine from half-gallon jugs, toking on reefers and dancing to music being blared from several portable radios. Perplexed because at least half of the crowd were not from the immediate area, having traveled there from sections of Brooklyn, Queens and even Staten Island. Throngs of neighborhood young people whose cheap transistors were tuned in to either Latin or rhythm-and-blues stations dead-eyed the middle-class hippies who swarmed into their turf for a night of dancing to the songs of the Loving Spoonful and the Mamas and the Papas resounding from the FM bands of their more expensive wireless receivers.
The black and Puerto Rican kids kept their distance from the clean-faced strangers, but they didn't just stand around staring at them. They jumped and shouted, danced and laughed to prove to
[end page 345]
themselves and to everyone else that they could out-party any bunch of white kids. Some of the hippies who lived on the Lower East Side moved around, coming on to the bunches of cute chicks who had driven in from the suburbs, while others panhandled change or tried to deal drugs to the visitors. Most of the East Village longhairs were partying hard themselves alongside their neighbors, however, trying to make some sort of contact with their black and Puerto Rican brothers and sisters.
The cops were bewildered all right, and when they asked some kid what was going on and were told it was the Anarchists' Ball, it all still didn't make much sense to them. Yes, they were confounded about not exactly knowing what was happening and bothered that they had no advance warning or information that such a gathering was going to occur that night. But they were by no means "scared shitless" by the mob and far from afraid that things might get out of hand or beyond their control.
You see, Tompkins Square Park had been the setting for many riots earlier in the century, and after they took place, several city departments and agencies got together and redesigned the park, stringing it with so much cast-iron fencing that it gave the place the look of a labyrinth and made it virtually impossible for any crowd to move anywhere en masse. The four-foot-high iron railings were placed randomly throughout the park, successfully dividing it up into small sections, and at the same time, separating into easy-tohandle groups any large mob that might gather. Also, in case of trouble, there were handball and basketball courts in the northeast section of the park enclosed and encircled by thirty-foot-high chainlink fences--that could quickly be converted into a makeshift jail or temporary holding facility for prisoners apprehended during a mass arrest.
Since the long hot summers of the mid-sixties spawned so many insurrections throughout the country, the cops held monthly predawn maneuvers on the Lower East Side, which they considered a "trouble area," and the sealing off of Tompkins Square Park was the main concern of those riot control exercises. Emmett had seen the cops do their thing very early one morning when he was returning to Candy's from the East River, and it only took them about three and a half to four minutes to secure the park--which was quite impressive, even if there really was no traffic at that hour for them to contend with.
Therefore, the cops were hardly shitting in their pants in the face
[end page 346]
of that crowd that night. In fact, they were probably hoping something would explode so they could do it for real and set in motion the master game plan they had been rehearsing for so long.
The Anarchists' Ball ended at 11:30 P.M., the bewitching hour that puts the "disturbing the peace" ordinance into effect for the general public. It was agreed that a good time was had by all, even the few from the suburbs who got beat for some of their money in dope transactions which turned out to be nothing but burns. The crowd dispersed peacefully, and even though it was a relatively simple thing to arrange, nothing like the Anarchists' Ball in Tompkins Square Park has ever been seen again on the Lower East Side.
Emmett got back to Candy's pad about midnight, and no sooner took off his jacket and poured himself a short glass of wine, when the phone rang. The caller identified himself, but immediately swore Emmett to secrecy before he would say what it was he phoned about. Emmett promised he would never reveal the person's name to anyone ever, and then listened as the dude excitedly related what he had heard with his own two ears and had been privy to less than an hour before.
"Emmett, they're gonna get you killed! They were all there tonight, in the park at the Anarchists' thing, all of the East Village heavies, the hippie leaders, 'n what you did by inviting all those people to the ball freaked them out. There were thousands of people there from all over, 'n all night long, everywhere you went in the park, all you heard was Emmett Grogan, Emmett Grogan. Your name was all over the place! Everyone was talking about you 'n asking questions 'n looking all around for you! Well, it really got the head hippies who've been running things around here since before you came East crazy, 'n they talked for a long time about how something had to be done about you before you copped all the power from them 'n took over things in the East Village by yourself! They're scared, real scared, because you're always putting them down 'n pushin' them around, 'n they're really afraid that you'll put them all out of business if you're allowed to go on like you have been. So they're going to pay somebody to kill you before you get control of everything 'n force all of them to knuckle under or get out of the picture! 'N they mean it, too! What's-his-name already has someone lined up for the job, 'n they're all gonna put up the bread together tomorrow to pay the guy's price, so you'11 be hit before the week's out. I don't know what you're gonna do! You know who they are. I don't know what else to tell you. I can let you
[end page 347]
have some money if you need to split. Anyways, I just thought you oughtta know what they're up to. If I can help in any way, call me, okay? 'N don't worry. I'll let you know right away when there's anything new or I hear about any other developments. Wish I could do more. Talk to you later, man, hear?"
"Yeah. Thanks. Be seeing you."
Candy was already asleep because she had to get up.early for work the next morning, and she'd been out very late the night before at a party at Casey's Restaurant, where many people who're involved in the publication of words for a living hang out and hold casual but classy get-togethers. Casey is, of course, the name of the owner, an affable Chinese man with waist-length black hair whom Emmett had met at the same party with Candy. It had been sort of a lark for him to rub and bend elbows with so many literary notables, as well as making him just as tired as gracious Candy Sand. But the phone call sparked his adrenalin and gave him the type of second-wind surge which always renewed him. He was glad Candy was already in bed, leaving him completely alone with the incredible thought that his death was being purchased the same way housewives pay exterminators to get rid of insects, or farmers put up bounty for hunters to go after varmints.
It was unbelievable, all right, and there was very little if any reason at all for Emmett to disbelieve the person who phoned him with the news. He was in his mid-thirties and was a responsible figure in the New York radical-hip political circle, a respected member of the East Village leadership set and a person who also happened to secretly feel a personal friendship for Emmett and who just didn't cotton to killing or any use of violence, that's all. He was definitely not some scatterbrained kid looking to create a little excitement by making up a nifty story or by crying wolf to scare up some action. No, what his man had told him was for real. Emmett was certain of that.
His problem now was to figure out how to prevent it from becoming "for keeps." It was no good for him to waste time trying to pin down how the contract man would go about hitting him without making it look like what it was--a hired killing. But he did squander some time on the various ways he might be killed. He would either simply disappear which was already part of his myth anyway, known as "doing a Grogan," or get his skull caved in and his pockets rifled, to be found dead in the streets and be labeled just another robbery victim by the cops. But that might cause too much
[end page 348]
of a storm in the ever-tenuous relations between the hippies and the Puerto Ricans and blacks, and therefore might prove too risky a method in the long run.
When he'd given enough thought to how he might be done, he turned his attention to various methods by which he could avoid it. Every once in a while, as he thought, Emmett's belief would be staggered for a moment by the simple preposterousness of it all-- by the undeniable probability that he would be dead within the next couple of days.
When he flashed on that, on the downright outrageousness of that pack of scumbags paying somebody to snuff him, of even insinuating they'd do such a thing, Emmett began to shake with rage. Once he actually put on his jacket, laced up his boots, took the Walther PPK automatic which a brother laid on him back in Frisco out of his bag along with several extra clips of g mm. ammunition, and started to go out and get a few of the punk motherfuckers before they could pay somebody else to do him. But he stopped short of the door, holding the Walther loosely in the sweaty palm of his hand, considering it a foolish move, the kind of ploy that should only be left to Mike Hammer's fantasies, and certainly not something for a man alone in the concrete reality of a city like New York to do against impossible odds and with nobody to back him. But he came close, awfully close, and that group of psychedelic asshole suckers who decided to pay to have him taken care of would never know how close they came to having a burp gun jammed up their noses and the trigger pulled until it didn't work anymore.
Emmett finally went to bed around three or four o'clock with his Walther under the pillow and the extra clips in one of his boots. He didn't particularly like automatic pistols, preferring the sturdy reliability of a .38 revolver to the fickleness of an automatic, but even though he would trade it in a minute for a good snubnose Smith & Wesson, he was glad it had been given to him, and he always kept it close and clean to reduce the likelihood of it ever jamming up on him in a spot. He tried to remember the last time he took the Walther apart and gave it a thorough cleaning, but he fell asleep before he could recall.
Candy Sand had just split to her literary secretarial job when Emmett awoke at 10:30 A.M. with a poisoned headache from an unrestful night of bad dreams. He was sipping a cup of light coffee and smoking his first cigarette of what was apparently going to be a very long day when there was a knock on the door, and every
[end page 349]
thought he had the night before suddenly added up and told him that this was probably it. He tiptoed quickly, barefooting it into the bedroom where he snatched up his piece and two extra clips and slowly came back out, positioning himself flat against the wall on the right side of the door, out of the way of any possible line of fire.
There was a second volley of knocks which was more aggressive and louder. A quick chill ran up Emmett's naked back, and he flushed, with beads of sweat breaking out all over him, making his dungarees cling uncomfortably tight at his crotch and the balls of his feet moisten the wooden floor. No one had ever before knocked on the door of the pad during the morning, at least not since Emmett had been there. There was no buzzer downstairs, so maybe it was just a Con Edison man wanting to read the meters. "No, if it was somebody like that, he'd of announced himself. They always announce who they are. Everyone knows that. An' I don't give a fuck what he says he is if he does say so either. Even if he's Western Union, I don't want any! And I'm gonna tell him I don't want none, too, to let him know I'm here, because tha~ way, if he's the one who's supposed to do me, he won't know I've got a piece, 'n he'll brazen it, maybe even come bargin' in, 'n I'll blow his fuckin' head off. That way it'll all be over 'n done with right away instead of getting dragged out 'n makin' me crazy."
The knocking started again, but this time it was more like someone pounding on the door with their fist. Then came the giveaway, and at first Emmett didn't believe it, but it sounded again loud and clear. A girl's voice calling out his name, "Emmett! Emmett!" shortly followed by, "It's me, Natural Suzanne!" All the tauttension seemed to slip out of his body. He sighed and took a deep breath, letting his arms relax to his side and his gun dangle limp in his hand. For a moment he was disappointed that it hadn't been what he thought, because then it would at least have been over. But only for a moment. It was actually better it turned out this way. He remained cautious, however, asking Natural Suzanne casual questions through the still-locked door about things only she knew about, while making believe he just got up from bed and was still drowsy stupid with sleep.
But it was her all right, and she was alone, with a suitcase, jumping excitedly across the threshold after he opened the door, and going into an immediate impassioned description of her trip from San Francisco to see her mother and sisters in Michigan before com
[end page 350]
ing to New York and Emmett. Her overwhelming joy at being in the Big Apple city for the first time, and the sprightly, cheerful depiction she gave of her journey as an adventurous voyage made Emmett feel very old, hardened by the reality of the weapon stuffed in his waistband and the unhesitating intention he had only moments before about using it. She was very young.
Her arrival, however, had changed the spot he was put on by the East Village hippie leaders, and when she further told Emmett that Fyllis, Lacey Pines and the Hun were also on their way to the city and should arrive within the next twenty-four hours, it made his situation drastically different from what it formerly had been. He was no longer alone. He immediately called the person who phoned him the night before with the news that he was deemed too dangerous to live, and told his friendly contact about the arrival of his sisters and brother from San Francisco and asked him to spread the news among the East Village leadership who wanted him out of the way. He told him to inform them that he would be returning to the West Coast with Natural Suzanne and the others as soon as possible, within a week or two, hoping that the news of his imminent departure would give the hippie punks enough reason to cancel their plans for his dispatch.
Emmett was satisfied that it would work, and by the time the others arrived from San Francisco later that same day, it had. The East Village hippie hierarchy conferred about the new development and they unanimously resolved to drop their plans since he was leaving anyway, which was all they wanted in the first place. Emmett's friend phoned him with the news of their decision, but also warned him that the postponement was based on the grounds he would split the city within the next two weeks, and further advised him to plan accordingly. "Okay, thanks a lot. You really saved me this time around 'n I won't forget it. Be seeing you!"
Emmett continued meeting with the East Side community's activist and social-political groups, such as the Angry Arts, the Black Mask, the Anarchists, the Real Great Society and the Group Image, and talked over the possibility of their forming a coalition to organize a New York Communication Company of their own and establish other services for the people in the neighborhood by cooperating, instead of competing among themselves and bad-mouthing each other.
He knew he had very little time left to get anything relevant started, but he tried just the same to turn some sort of trick before
[end page 351]
he would have to leave and return to the West Coast with the women and the Hun--who were also meeting with the different Lower East Side factions, trying to turn them on to consolidating their energies for the solution to some of the more important community problems.
Emmett didn't tell anyone about the plot the handful of East Village hipster marketeers had made against him. He only implied to his San Francisco comrades that his presence in the neighborhood wasn't particularly welcomed by those who used the area as a marketplace for their own benefit. He could have revealed the story of the plot to the mass media and thereby the people, but he felt that they probably wouldn't have believed it unless his contact also came forward to corroborate his testimony, and that was more than unlikely. He also couldn't figure what real good it would serve to bring it out into the open. For a man who was alone like Emmett to give something of himself away to the press, he had to be damned sure he was going to get something for it. So he decided to keep it quietly private between him and the hip marketeers, only letting them know that he knew about their pipe laying against him.
The East Village market operators, however, didn't react to his knowledge of their plotting as quietly as he had, and they set a campaign in motion to discredit his work in the community, knowing full well that any statements he might make about their conspiring against him would quickly sound like the paranoid ranting of a man looking desperately for a way to save face. This public campaign to discredit Emmett and his work was made necessary because of an article by Richard Goldstein that had just appeared in the Village Voice, the Greenwich Village radical-liberal weekly founded in the fifties by Norman Mailer, among others. This article successfully made Emmett seem the center of a personality cult by labeling the Diggers "Grogan's people."
Emmett had bumped into Goldstein over a month before in the Clayton Street house where the Free Food was prepared for the Panhandle, and he thought he was just another young kid who'd run away from home, because he was only a little more than five feet tall and had a neat, blond, childlike appearance. When Goldstein identified himself as a reporter for the Voice, Emmett at first figured he was jiving, but told him that if he was a reporter, he was wasting his time around the Clayton Street place, because there wasn't anyone there who was going to talk to him. Then he left to go make his daily rounds with the truck. Goldstein stayed, however, and some
[end page 352]
how got Fyllis to open up for an interview, calling her "Miss Metesky" in the article.
The story was entitled "In Search of George Metesky," Metesky being the man who exemplified for Billy Landout and Emmett the absurdity of protest, with his twenty-five-year career as the Mad Bomber of New York which began when he was denied disability payments after being blasted in the face with steam while working for Con Edison. Goldstein based his report on the same sort of hippie leadership meeting in the Haight-Ashbury that Warren Hinckle III and Jerry Hopkins used as the premises for their unfactual articles. Goldstein didn't rely as heavily on fabrication, contenting himself with a snotty description of the meeting as "Emmett Grogan's debut, because the Diggers are his thing," and prophesying that "it will be interesting to watch the crucifixion when the Diggers drive the money changers from the temple, and Grogan may attempt just that."
The story went on to make Emmett and "his people" into an image of "hip resistance" and called them "the new realists, committed to an existential ethic of direct responsibility," as well as the "social workers of the Haight," who "give food, shelter and, ultimately, protection from what Grogan views as a hostile, murderous establishment."
It was just the kind of personal publicity that Emmett always avoided and tried to thwart, because he knew it would only lead to further friction between him and his brother Diggers, and it did. Even though he himself didn't speak with Goldstein, the reporter wrote about him in personal terms, using the Ramparts piece and "Miss Metesky" for the basic information he needed to give rise to a hero whose fall he seemed to await with relish. Emmett blew it and tongue-lashed Fyllis for having talked to Goldstein about their work together, because ". . . now all the dude's waiting for is to write a follow-up story about our crucifixion--about how we got wiped out because we proved to be too much of a serious threat to the establishment hippies! Sure, it'll make good copy for the papers, won't it Miss Metesky? And you can give them another interview when you're in jail!" But he didn't stay angry long, because, after all, Fyllis was only seventeen, and fidelity was her name.
Since the Voice story publicized Emmett to New Yorkers as a popular hip leader of the West Coast underground, his East Village enemies felt compelled to publicly denounce the role he was playing in the East. They gave Candy Sand's unlisted phone number to
[end page 353]