April 1, 1980 Journal Entry East Village

April 1

Frank’s Birthday

April Fool’s Day 1979

Yesterday Michael Selbach and I felt the urge for a short trip up the Hudson on his Kawasaki 650cc motorcycle. The day was sunny and I dressed in white denims; jacket and jeans, then rode the subway up to Times Square. The David’s Pot Belly’s cook waited on the corner of 42nd and Eighth. He handed me a Bell helmet and I climbed on the back.

“I never thought you’d be my bike bitch.”

“Hey, this is only platonic.”

He headed over to the semi-destructed West Side Highway and we cruised along the Hudson.

“Shall we go to the Cloisters?” he shouted with his head slightly turned away from the wind.

“I went there two weeks ago. Have you ever been to West Point?” The famed military academy was about fifty miles away.

“No, I haven’t.”

“It’s worth the ride, plus there’s the Storm King Highway overlooking the Hudson. A must see.” I had been there once with my family. Like me my father loved the road.

“Sounds good to me.”

We crossed the Fiord on the GW Bridge to New Jersey and sped along the Palisades Parkway. Far back in the Ice Age this falaise had guarded an extinct continent against the rising ocean, as the melt-off from the mile-high glacier carved through the tectonic plate to form the Hudson hundreds of feet below us. A fierce wind along the parkway buffered us from lane to lane. Thankfully traffic was light after the 9W exit and we soon sheltered by the bare branched trees.

The towns along the western bank were situated out of sight from the roadway. THe surrounding towns had outlived their original purpose to become suburbs for men and women commuting into Manhattan for work. We passed by the exit signs dentoing their existence without seeing their centers. After Nyack the land ruralized with farms spreading over the hills, until we reached a massive quarry shipping gravel to reconstruct New York City recovering slowly from the dereliction of the 1970s.

Michael topsped on the highway. Helmets restricted our conversation and I spoke within my mind to my minds. After Haversack we entered the suburban sprawl of malls and little league fields. The station wagons were filled with young boys in baseball uniforms driven by well-coiffed mothers. The young boys studied our passage with a a sense of yearning. Some of them had to want to be us.

Michael and I had grown up in similar surroundings on the West and East Coasts. A life as a bum was preferable to their parents’ enslavement to the 9 to 5. I had left behind the suburbs in 1976 and I harbored no thoughts of returning to the sprawl of my birth.

Lately Michael had been talking about moving to Hoboken, as if he was abandoning the city. I was bound to the East Village. I wasn’t leaving until it was time to leave and today that felt like never.

Haverstack gave way to West Haversack without a struggle. George Washington might have retreated through these lands after the military debacle in New York defeat over two centuries ago. The towns were replaced by farmland and then tenth-growth woodlands. Michael hit 80W for a few miles before we exited for West Point.

The Bear Mountain bridge spanned the Hudson. I think Jack Kerouac started his trip across America from which came ON THE ROAD. I wanted Michael to stop, so I could stand where the Beat writer had stood thirty years ago. The bridge dated back to the 1930s. America really began here. I had last hitchhiked across the continent in the winter of 1975.

We descended into marshes. Railroad tracks were strapped to the western bank. A sign WEST POINT 10 MILES stood at attention by the roadside. My father had driven here on our Ford Station Wagon in 1966. I had been almost fourteen. My mother had wanted me to be a priest or a cadet.

Michael and I entered the academy by Thayer Gate. The graduates of the the 1960s and 1970s had served in Vietnam. The power of the world’s strongest army. Defeated by rice farmers. Now five years after the Fall of Saigon the cadets of the 1980s in their dress uniforms showed no defeat. Their stiff posture marked their dreams of America’s future glory. These boys showed no shame. Vietnam wasn’t their defeat, but it was our victory. Michael and I were both anti-war leather punks.

Yesterday a sign announced NO PARADE TODAY.

“It’s a good show.” Back in my youth I had wanted to be one of them.

I would have looked good in the uniform.

We stopped at the graveyard. Home eternal for thousands of officers. We stood at George Custer’s grave.

“He’s no hero.”

“And neither are we.”

We saddled up and the Kawasaki climbed the steep two-laner to the top of the Storm King Highway, 420 feet over the Hudson. We stopped at the precipitous vista point. The Hudson ran north between the Berkshires and Catskills. Both mountain ranges had been shorn of their height by the glaciers.

“You know I might have fallen in love with Vickie.” Michael had been seeing the redheaded fashion student for a few months. I was still recovering from Lisa’s desertion. My blonde girlfriend had disappeared into Europe. Michael had been a good friend. His wife had left him last summer.

That’s a good thing for you.”

“But not you?”

“It’s was bound to happen. I’m happy you’re in love.”


No, but better you than neither of us.”

“What about you and Elizabeth?”

I had been seeing the lanky Virginian for a few months too. We had even met each other’s parents.

“We’re going nowhere.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah I’m too haunted. I don’t felt anything for anyone. Not even myself. It’s better that I break up with her before I really hurt her.”

“Or yourself.” Michael straddled the Kawasaki. “Too bad, she’s a great girl. By the way you should look at your jacket.”



I took off the Levi jacket. The back tire had thrown up a misty rooster tail to splatter back.

“Damn. That ain’t gonna come off.”

“Your jeans match.”

“Double damnit.”

I got on the bike behind Michael. If I had a motorcycle, I was bound for the West Coast and a sore ass, but we crossed the Hudson at Newburgh and drove south to New York and our lives.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *