The Literary Life

by

02/20/2022

Neighborhood: Lower Manhattan, SoHo

The Literary Life: NYC 1982

I recall distinctly
The famous author 
Standing over me
As I scraped the plaster
Off her bathroom floor
Left behind by 
Workers renovating
The building 
The first time I talked to her
She called me up
To express her
Indignation
About the bathroom
I felt I’d done 
Something wrong
Like I was in trouble 
With my mother
Like I’d messed up
My chores 
Or something
So I hurried on up
To her apartment
And met the famous author
All apologies
I got my little bucket
And paint scraper
And she showed me in
And pointed down at 
The white spots on 
The tile floor
*
The real estate company
Manager had told me 
That her latest novel
Was being turned into
A mini-series about 
Rich girls at a boarding school
OK, I said, and shrugged
*
She watched me as I
Scrubbed and scraped
She’d written a book 
On bathroom decoration
She said, This mess
Is completely unacceptable.
Her husband she told me
Was so and so
The owner of kitchen and
Bathroom stores
In London
One thing I’d learned
Growing up was
Don’t talk back to
The woman in charge
Be a good boy
Don’t fuck around
That’s the lesson for
Workers and
Poets
It’s OK to look up
And smile every
Once in a while
Otherwise
Eyes down
Keep on scraping 
*
The Keshcarrigan 
Bookshop was right down
Warren Street on
West Broadway
The owner was
A friendly person
With a lyrical Irish
Accent
She’d smile when
I walked in 
Sometimes she’d let me be
Sometimes she’d
Make conversation and talk
About books 
And authors
In her tidy shop I felt
Removed from the crazy
City just to be there
In the quiet with
The second-hand and 
New books
The sunlight and
Shadows on the floor
I bought a Frank O’Connor
Collection
TRAVELLER’S SAMPLES
I bought THE COLLECTED
WORKS OF JOHN 
MILLINGTON SYNGE
I’d linger looking
Through this book
Or that
And what do you do?
She asked me one day
I’m a Super up the street
at 258 Broadway
on the park.
Yes, or course, she said, But 
Do you write, 
Are you a writer, as well?
I hesitated, but then
I told her, Yeah,
Here and there.
Well, isn’t that
Wonderful?
I don’t know if it is.
And what is it you’re
Working on?
I’m... I’m working 
On a novel.
Are you? she said
And then
She said maybe the
Kindest thing anyone
Has ever said to me,
Well, aren’t you brave!
*
I guess you could
Take that different ways
But for a few minutes
There
Stepping back out
Into the city everything
Seemed pretty good
The streets crowded with
Commuters hurrying
For the subway
And me going
The other way
The cars
Honking and jockeying
For position to be first
To the tunnels and the red
Sunset between the buildings
Down by the river and
Walking just to walk
And looking up
The shadow of
The World Trade Center
One on the other
And a few clouds 
Colored by the sunset
Moving above

Fielding Dawson at the Ear Inn 


I had a professor who called him Fielding Grounders 
But another one 
Who was gay 
loved him 
and loved all the 
Black Mountain and related 
writers 
I got a ride down to the city 
with my gay professor 
And we had a 
Good chat 
About art and writing 
And so on 
he told me about 
going to the bath 
houses and 
wanting to 
prostitute himself
just to try it 
I asked him 
why do you think 
heterosexuals 
don't have bath houses 
and he said 
laughing 
you people got to get your 
shit together 
He took me to meet 
Fielding Dawson 
We had to wait 
until he finished his 
shift working 
As a sales clerk
at a department 
store 
Then we sat around 
his apartment 
talking about 
Charles Olson 
and Edward Dorn 
and Franz Kline 
I remember Fielding
Saying sometimes
James Joyce was
“A little too cute” 

Outside of walking around Gloucester looking for Olson's house 
eating a hot dog 
on a street corner 
with Fielding Dawson 
is about as close as 
I'll get to that part 
of literary America 
But I also went to
Fielding Dawson's 
reading at the 
Ear Inn 
where the guy 
who introduced him 
said 
"America has produced two great writers of 
fiction. William Faulkner and Fielding Dawson!" The small crowd 
in attendance clapped 
politely 
And I opened my 
signed copy of 
Krazy Kat and 
76 More 
to read along 
as best I 
could 
Of course Fielding 
has disappeared from 
the literary landscape 
(as do most authors) 
searching my library system's 52 libraries
there is not a single title by the 
writer
Faulkner 
on the other hand 
is doing ok 
for now

***

Dan Hubbs worked as a building super at 258 Broadway in the early 80's while taking a few lit grad courses at NYU.  He's an old-time style banjo player and song writer. You can see a recent Caffe Lena show with his band Banjo Varient on YouTube. He received a grant to publish a book of narrative poems and song lyrics in 2021. The book, Downtown Super Tells All, is available at Amazon, etc.


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