sitting quietly he felt his solar plexus as a dark tunnel. a cold wind, a funnel of debris and shit and hopelessness. sure, his heart was rent and in his mind, nothing but dark thoughts; and the day had just begun.
s. was on the third floor of a dollar a day "single room occupancy"; dirty shower down the dim hall. there was something so depressing
about that corner of manhattan. third avenue and fourteenth st.
then there was the anonymity of the "horn and hardart", the last of the 'automats'. put a nickel in for a cup of coffee and a dime for apple pie or a bowl of soup. this was s's office. he had started a journal.
sipping his second cup of coffee he gathered his thoughts. this was a serious diary, black, 14"x 11"; no lines, so he could add sketches.
he wrote on the inside of the cover:
"this is a journal of the events, emotions and thoughts i have experienced during the period between 1966 when i first began to try to find something (in life) more than what was automatically mine and the time that i did find something and no longer need to do this.
this journal is a discipline and a reminder."
the first page is dated 1/19/66
some bullshit about a girl named ruth, a meeting with bob f. and carolyn where s. talks his head off spewing ideas for a movie they plan to make together.
and one line: "called julie, venice, ca..—- same as ever."
the next day he talks effusively about his job in the 'messenger service' , the injustices at the hands of the owner mrs. altman and the movie "darling" which he reads as the existentialist futility of an aimless life and compares his relationship with julie to that of the hero 'robert'.
on the 24th of january, s. complains about a rash of weeping sores on the palms of his hands, gigi and bob f. and the movie, sue bertram is around and tells s. a little about entering the 'work'. that night s. has a dream where he meets this white haired man behind his desk who asks him, "why have you come? what do you want?"
….. from the journal: his dream: " i want to become clean." he said, "why don't you wash yourself? i asked how? and he stopped and thought a while and i thought he was going to tell me something but he gave me some soap instead.
i am so sick of being nothing—- i must do something .
at one of their many instructive meetings at the automat, f. says, "julie is in town." they agree to meet at her apartment the next day. they agree to work together for a fund to pay a lawyer to regain the boys from the foster home in woodstock. bob would rent a car and be a gypsy cab driver at night. s. made a pretty sign for him to flash in the theatre district. it said 'TAXI' in giant ornate colored letters.
nancy romagnoli, a new friend s. had met at the "paradox", a macrobiotic restaurant on the lower east side, helped s. with his costume. a bright green over-sized angora sweater, with a collar they made together, a pair of bright red dancer's leotards, a crepe paper red and orange large flower with a butterfly pin attached.
s.'s idea was to buy dozens of red roses in the subway, where they were cheaper by the dozen. beautiful fresh long stemmed roses which hadn't even started to bloom. he would sell these for a dollar apiece in the high class eastside restaurants on saturday night.
with all of these things s. was made-up, all white faced with a red dot on his nose and a perpetual smile like a mime (he did this himself) and dressed (by the girls) at seven o'clock that evening with four dozen roses in a flat box, s. stumbled into his first restaurant. he would never say a single word or it wouldn't work. he had to use sign language through-out the night.
a short white mustached armenian stepped out of a bar. s. was just walking by very fast. the man stopped him impulsively, "what are you doing?"
s. waved his hand indicating the roses in the box.
"ahhh, you're giving them?"
s. rubbed his fingers together; the sign for money.
"oh, i get it. you are a clown." s. nodded demurely, smiling his biggest smile.
the armenian bustled s. off to a liquor store. from the back of the store, some children came out with their mother. they were greatly surprised and pleased. s. bowed and capered and gave them each a rose. during this performance the kind father surreptitiously placed a dollar in s's hand.
although s. was supposed to be selling roses for a dollar apiece, he thought it was best to say nothing.
another time s. was rushing around a corner and surprised a young couple coming towards him. she said,
"where are you coming from?", as if in a fairytale. s. gesticulated that he had these flowers to sell and held up his index finger; meaning one dollar apiece.
delighted, this beauty, in a fine evening gown, turned to her indian escort, expectantly. the lucky man reached for his wallet.
s. went to bars and restaurants. at first they made him leave. but he wouldn't. the patrons sometimes insisted that the management let him stay. after awhile, he learned to sort of come falling in as if someone had shoved him. then trippingly he would regain his balance dramatically in a room full of people. and the antics between the maitre d's and s. always brought roars of laughter. s. would pout and stomp around as if he wouldn't go.
s. observed that the girls were all enchanted with him, or the idea of him, and wanted a flower, no matter the cost was one dollar— they would insist on having one. even the hatcheck girls, the waitresses and the showgirls expressed their sympathy. some would buy a flower themselves, some even tipped him. but they all helped. at one big party in a french 'haute cuisine' restaurant, a man at the head of the table paid for six roses for the ladies in his company. the pretty waitresses shamed the managers who tried to throw him out. they invited s. to meander around to all the tables. they helped with the flowers, passing them out.
what woman's love or friendship is not worth the cost of a long stemmed rosebud?
that night s. returned to grand central station for more roses two more times. he made $132 at a cost of $12 .
julie got the boys back. it took a while longer than they expected. but she got them back.