Fly Orr hosted a reading/launch/benefit for the latest issue of her zine, PEOPs, at the Bowery Poetry Club last Sunday, July 8th, and it turned out to be a pretty cool event. A bunch of the Unbearables read their pieces: Sparrow, who was hilarious as always with his brief comic bits; David Huberman, who still rants like a dude on fire; and myself, along with Hettie Jones, who was married to LeRoi Jones (later known as Amiri Baraka, a notorious writer from the Beat era). The night was capped off with Bob Holman reading his drawing (Fly draws each person’s portrait while they tell her the ‘story’ of their life – at the same time she works on the portrait, she’s penciling in that person’s oral history. Most of the portraits are of Lower East Side survivors and heroes; people she knows and/or meets on the street). In the course of his reading Bob told everyone in the audience about the fate of his famous club – we’d all heard rumors about what was going to happen to the Bowery Poetry Club – and now Bob was going to clear everything up once and for all. It turns out that poets don’t drink all the much any more, and Holman, who had counted on our legendary thirst to pay the rent, was going to have to go into a partnership with another entrepreneur to pay the bills; there would still be poetry, but mostly on the weekends – the club will have to close for renovations, so there will be a closing party this coming Tuesday, July 17, and then the joint will go dark until mid-October.
Ron Kolm’s PEOPs by Fly Orr
This is what a finished PEOPs looks like – that’s me above with my ‘story’ – I’ve translated it below with the addition of several lines that make the events I was retelling a little clearer. If you get a chance to pick-up a copy or two of Fly’s mag, you would make her very happy!
Ron Kolm’s PEOPs
For me what changed my life was Vietnam — I had definitely made up my mind that I was not going to get in a position to shoot anyone or kill anyone — so I volunteered for alternative service and got sent to Appalachia — it was 1969. The woman I was with at that time and I got placed in a small community of rundown tar paper shacks — it was called Maupin Row — this community got only cold running water from the city and no sewage or garbage pick-up — we had an outhouse and I knew I had made it to an interesting place when snowflakes falling between the wood slats landed and melted on my knees while I was taking a dump.
Because I was a ‘community organizer’ it was impossible to get a straight job when I finally moved to New York City in 1970 — I was considered a radical — the only way I could get money to pay the rent was to sell my library in bits and pieces to the Strand bookstore — every time I went there Fred Bass, the owner’s son, would offer me a job — the starting salary was $60 dollars gross a week and you had to work Saturdays, so I put off working there as long as possible until I finally caved on account of hunger.
At that time I was living in a basement apartment in Brooklyn that used to flood every time it rained — at the Strand I worked with Patti Smith, Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine — I saw Television the first night they played CBGBs when Richard Hell was still in the band — I got fired for a stupid reason and ended up getting a gig at the Eastside Bookstore on St. Mark’s Place at 2nd Avenue — this would be 1975.
It was an interesting time — the East Village was on fire, pretty much for two reasons: junkies would burn down buildings so they could scavenge the metal fixtures and copper pipes, or because they’d nodded out, and landlords would do it to collect on the insurance. Whenever we heard sirens we would walk out of the bookstore to watch the fire trucks head east towards the pillars of smoke.
People would come into the bookstore and steal anything that wasn’t nailed down — one night I was in the store alone and this small guy comes out of the office in the back wheeling the manager’s bicycle towards the front door — when I told him to put it back he walked over to the register and rammed a knife into the back of my hand where it got stuck so he had to let go of it — he just stood there, totally drunk — I could’ve killed him — we had a metal club stashed under the counter for situations just like this — and he’d given me the perfect excuse to use it, but I realized once again that I really wasn’t into hurting anyone, so I just told him to split.UG
Copyright © 2012 Arthur Kaye
Ron Kolm is a member of the Unbearables, and an editor of several of their anthologies; most recently The Unbearables big Book of Sex! Ron is a contributing editor of Sensitive Skin magazine. He is the author of The Plastic Factory and, with Jim Feast, the novel Neo Phobe. Kolm’s papers were purchased by the New York University library, where they’ve been catalogued in the Fales Collection as part of the Downtown Writers Group.