Schulenberg’s Page: New York in ’73 — Riots, be-ins, and just being

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Connie Bartel in her big stone house in New Jersey where I escaped for the weekend.

September 1973: The Vietnam War continued and we got used to it — as you would to an annoyingly loud air conditioner that was such a background sound that it could no longer be complained about.

There were so many missteps and inaccurate news reports that the only dynamic was the variety of protests, riots and be-ins that were reported nightly and daily on WBAI-fm, the listener-supported Pacifica Network station.  They were always on the inside reporting violence against protesters as it was happening!

Too frequently their reporters or witnesses became themselves victims of police “disciplinary action”!
And the Nixon White House was continuing to resist the demands of the Watergate Committee declaring presidential privilege for anything that might implicate anyone involved with the president — including the involvement of the president himself!

The committee had asked for the secret White House recorded tapes to be turned over but Nixon was resisting.  It was believed that the tapes might be a smoking gun that would implicate the president.

Vice President Agnew continued to say that the media reporting the news was totally different biased and making it up!  And my rep’s husband, Perry kept repeating the tired phrase, “that’s my boy!” (of Agnew). It was difficult for me to ignore.

On a Saturday night I took a break and went to The Castaways.

Kenny’s Castaways later moved downtown to Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village where it became known for unknown musicians being discovered and thereby becoming known!

It was a take your chances evening with a variety of musical experiences.

I’d been noticing that the frivolous fun of dressing up during the 1960s had turned into a rag-bag anti-fashion style that was an echoing of the gritty look of the Lower East Side as contrasting with the previous Rich Hippy looks of the West Village. It was as if formerly clean cut people were trying to emulate the drugged-out look that was beginning to populate the Village.

Drugs had become so ubiquitous that they were now being reflected in the culture!

Mara had turned me on to Kenny’s Castaways which at the time was just a few blocks from my Yorkville apartment. It was a surprise to see a bar that so resembled a downtown joint on the Upper East Side.  A few years later, after their lease ended, Kenny’s Castaways indeed moved to the Village!

But Yorkville still had its old familiar hangouts like the L & H German Bakery/restaurant on Second Avenue that was still frequented by the Hungarians that populated the neighborhood.  I wondered what they were thinking about President Nixon and the U.S. Government in general.

Or was it just that they had no way of relating to any of it?

The downtown for coffee at The Pot Belly!

On the weekend I escaped to New Jersey and the farm where I had dinner with Connie Bartel in her big stone house as her dogs dozed and dreamed.

She was such an animal lover that she had posted all over her 68-acre property signs that stated:


Although she was pretty much a pacifist, when it came to animals I think she meant it!

Back in Manhattan I killed some time at Dorrian’s Red Hand a block from my apartment on Second Avenue. I always enjoyed talking with the patriarch, “Poppy” Dorrian, who would tell me stories about when he was friendly with the DADA artist, Marcel Duchamp, and used to play chess with him.  It was difficult to believe — but how could he know what a chess dévoté Duchamp was?

Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, 1912.

And then meeting a friend for a quick Mexican dinner at Pancho Villa!

New York finally had regular everyday Mexican restaurants instead of only high end gourmet Mexican restaurants that were the only thing available in Manhattan when I first arrived in 1960!

So many things had changed during a little more than a decade. I’d arrived from Los Angeles when the Eisenhower administration was in its last year and we’d elected a young, enthusiastic president — and the whole culture had changed.

Back then Kennedy had run against Richard Nixon and now Nixon was President and in the center of a scandal that threatened his whole presidency!

What a difference a decade can make!

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