The quicksilver of Greenwich Village flows, dips to revolting depths and rises to stark heights along this aging thoroughfare
Michael Herr, a free-lance writer and a resident of Greenwich Village, makes his first appearance in Holiday with this article.
One noontime last spring a photographer, two assistants, a lady editor and a fashion model turned up at the corner of Bleecker and Leroy Streets, in Greenwich Village. This is a tenement block and a market district, the nucleus of what is left of the old Bleecker Street community. At this time of day, when Our Lady of Pompei School lets out for lunch, the streets are packed with tough, bright, well-behaved kids whose tumult fills Leroy Street, spilling onto Bleecker. They wear blue blazers with gold-stitched crests on the pockets. The model was dressed in leather, something from one of the fall collections with a wicked, constricting cut to it. Continue reading
I have included links where I thought they would be helpful; obviously a magazine from 1965 did not contain hyperlinks. —Josh
With the Christmas season and Christmas giving in mind, the Editors asked some of America’s distinguished authors and critics to contribute to an unusual list of books—books that are excellent but for some reason failed to attract wide attention. Here are the responses, each a rich tribute to a favorite neglected piece of good reading. Continue reading
This article comes courtesy of Lary Wallace, a big Michael Herr fan who transcribed the article for his site Pluto’s Orbit. Thanks, Lary.
A hundred miles from Bogota, south of Villavicencio, the plains of Colombia end and the jungles begin, running in unbroken density for more than 600 miles to the Amazon River. Colombia’s eastern border forks, like a snake’s tongue, and meets the river at two points. Leticia, on the southeastern tip, is the fourth largest town along the river, after Belem and Manaus in Brazil, and Iquitos, two hundred miles upriver, in Peru. A few steps out of Leticia will put you near the Brazilian army garrison just over the border, and a few hundred yards across the river, beyond the Colombian gunboat somewhere anchored in the harbor, you can see a Peruvian island. Leticia is the capital of Amazonas, a Colombian territory so remote that it has been called the world’s last true frontier. Continue reading
JERUSALEM’S UNIQUE ZOO IS A LIVING BIBLICAL BESTIARY
The Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, a concept inspired by the Prophets, is the only one of its kind in the world—a source of amazement not only to laymen like myself but, in even greater degree, to visiting zoologists and theologians. Here on thirty-two acres of the Holy Land’s rugged brown soil, the beasts and the birds mentioned in the Old Testament have been brought together. On their cages appear the Biblical quotations applicable to each creature. As you glance down from the contemptuous eyes of two splendid ostriches, both towering ten feet high, you read in Hebrew and English: “I am a brother to monsters and a companion to ostriches.” (Job 30:29) And where three of the most beautiful lions ever raised in captivity roar for their food, a placard quotes: “The lion hath roared—who will not fear?”(Amos 3:8)
The first glimpse of the Biblical Zoo may be something of a shock. This is not an exquisitely landscaped zoological garden such as you find in other cities. As you enter its creaking gate, crude paths lie ahead. All about them are massive boulders pockmarked by erosion. And among the rocks are growths of untended underbrush, clumps of twisted trees.
Yet this very crudeness is deliberately preserved because it establishes a proper mood for the zoo. Surely this is the way the Holy Land must have looked when some of these animals roamed its ancient hills, when some of these brilliantly plumed birds flew screaming from tree to tree. As you pass, they still scream at you—parrots and peacocks, magpies and ravens, just as they screamed at men in the years of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Today, they screech at more than 120,000 visitors a year.
When I was a boy of ten in Decatur, Illinois, my mother gave me twenty cents every morning—half of it for carfare to school, the remaining dime for my lunch. I could have spent that dime on candy or ice cream, but I can’t recall that I ever did, because it was at this magic and benign moment in time that I discovered chili.
Day after day I went to Chili Bill’s joint a couple of blocks from the school, sat at a scrubbed wooden counter, and for ten cents got a bowl of steaming chili, six soda crackers and a glass of milk. That was livin’!
I have been a chili man ever since those days. Nay, I have been the chili man. Without chili I believe I would wither and die. I stand without a peer as a maker of chili, and as a judge of chili made by other people. No living man, and let us not even think of woman in this connection, no living man, I repeat, can put together a pot of chili as ambrosial, as delicately and zestfully flavorful, as the chili I make. This fact is so stern, so granitic, that it belongs in the encyclopedias, as well as in all standard histories of civilization.
From my diary: Gritti Palace Hotel, Venice, October 26, 1948: “Lettuce leaves jostling in the wakes of boats on the Grand Canal…. The two bells of the Campanile are an octave apart … We lunched at Harry’s Bar, chic people and a triumphant fish soup.”
March 18, 1949: “Met Papa at Harry’s and many friends there—Count Carlo di Robilant and his wife Caroline, the Tripcovitches, Princess Aspasia of Greece with whom, Papa said, he’s had an afternoon of good, solid drink and talk while I was away, Baron Nanyuki Franchetti, Prince Tassilo Fürstenberg, a couple of Windisch-Graetzes and other once-Austrians, Howard, the Duke of Norfolk’s younger brother and his pretty wife, Countess Lili Volpi and that enduring, endearing old Countess Amelia de Reali. We lunched in a haze of affection and felicity with the di Robilants, the green tagliarini divine; paused on the way home as usual to inspect the jewelry in Codognato’s window.”
December 5, 1967: “Lunched with Cipriani and his lovely and elegant dark-eyed Giulia (wife) and his sister, Gabriella, my old friend, in the peace and sunshine of the upstairs room at Harry’s. He was in his usual fine spirits, with his cool, clear blue eyes unchanged, observing everything. I had scampi, fresh and sweet with a whisper of garlic. He had garnished hamburger, maybe not quite as good as my Wild West Hamburger, I surmised.”
DEAR BRUCE, IS NOT IN OUR STARS,
BUT IN OURSELVES
IS CALIFORNIA’S CANONIZATION OF LENNY BRUCE A SYMPTOM OF OUR NEW SELF-CRITICISM?
“He used to say he was being crucified, and . . . I’d say, ‘Hey, man, but don’t forget the resurrection.'” — Mort Sahl, 1966.
Two years after the death of Leonard Alfred Schneider, naked and alone on a bathroom floor in Hollywood, a hypodermic needle in his right arm, the Lenny Bruce cult continues to flourish, especially among the young who never saw the prophet, never heard his voice or touched the hem of his garment. They know only his records and his writings, neither of which do justice to the man or his message.
In tribute here is the poignant conclusion to Ray Bradbury’s 1965 “Machine-Tooled Happyland“:
No beatniks here. No Cool people with Cool faces pretending not to care, thus swindling themselves out of life or any chance for life.
Disneyland causes you to care all over again. You feel it is that first day in the spring of that special year when you discovered you were really alive. You return to those morns in childhood when you woke and lay in bed and thought, eyes shut, “Yes, sir, the guys will be here any sec. A pebble will tap the window, a dirt clod will horse-thump the roof, a yell will shake the treehouse slats.”
And then you woke fully and the rock did bang the roof and the yell shook the sky and your tennis shoes picked you up and ran you out of the house into living.
Disneyland is all that. I’m heading there now. Race you?
Nearly half a century later Bradbury remembered his joyous Holiday piece with matched enthusiasm. The following recently appeared on the Ray Bradbury forum:
I discovered this a few weeks ago…and read it to Mr B as part of my regular readings to him. He was so excited to hear it, and laughed at several parts of the essay, nodding his head and saying, “yes – I remember!”
Quinn’s Bar, on the waterfront in Papeete, Tahiti, is said by those having authority in such fields to be the worst bar in the world, and I think this is very likely true. There may be worse bars in certain respects elsewhere, but for overall lack of refinement Quinn’s has a distinction that is pretty nearly unique. I’ve met travelers who have ventured into dives on the waterfront of Marseilles, in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong and on the back streets of Juarez, but who acknowledge that they had never tasted the full extravagance of descent until they entered Quinn’s.