A Journal of the Plague Year 2022—chapter 279

White Power, anyone?

January 18

And now an announcement: Time magazine’s Man of the Year… George Santos!

Think about it: Santos encapsulates the many elements of the Zeitgeist. According to a resume he submitted to Long Island Republicans, he is an astounding success: a New York University MBA who more than doubled revenues while serving as a project manager at Goldman Sachs, among other triumphs. And, moreover, he has campaigned as… a victim!!! A gay Latino Ukrainian Jew-ish casualty of the Holocaust.

Like Trump, he is an unabashed fabulist. Santos may even believe his own lies— Trump certainly did (the winner of the greatest electoral landslide in American history, the greatest president since Lincoln, perhaps even greater than George Washington).

Now, we’re told that Santos is hanging out with the Marjorie Taylor Greene crowd in Congress. He’ll fit right in as a would-be target of the puppet-mastering cabal who really pull the strings—and who conspire to deny the rightful positions of those like Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and Greene. Santos has appeared on Stephen Bannon’s podcast, “Bannon’s War Room,” a platform for election deniers and conspiracy-spinners. And he may join the House’s wacko Freedom Caucus.

A Latino signaler of White Power salutes? Hey, only Bolshie-Democrat feminist-Nazi woke types could find fault with that.

If you ask me, too many people have spent too much time watching the Ali G show on YouTube. And the distinction between truth and satire has entirely eluded them.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2022—chapter 278

January 11

At Rockefeller Center.

We’re back in New York City, taking care of various business. After lunch with a friend today, I went to a Chase Bank location to visit my safe deposit box and remove various stuff. The box said it was lonely—that I hadn’t visited since 2017. So I closed the account and took everything away. Inside were a variety of “important” documents that should provide a full day’s worth of memories…whenever I get around to examining them. (I immediately noticed a letter from my mother, probably written in the 1980s, regarding her pre-paid cemetery plot.)

Institutions in the city seem to fall into two extreme categories: 1) wow, that place hasn’t changed a bit, and 2) that joint has undergone a radical transformation.

So far, I have visited Zabar’s, the legendary upper west side food and kitchen-implements store (an absolute category 1); Astor Liquors (a near category 1); the former McGraw-Hill Building (category 2, right down to its no-nonsense new name of 1221 Avenue of the Americas); the Strand Bookstore (a category 2, for sure: where it once mostly sold used books, its wares today are generally the same spanking-new editions you’d find at Barnes & Noble); Grand Central Terminal (cleaned-up and tourist-ready, but otherwise a category 1); the mezzanine floor of the building adjacent to Grand Central (category 2, since every one of its once-bustling restaurants is now gone); and Joe’s Pizza, 14th Street location (brand-new to me, and so a category 2).

I walked back from Astor Liquors, past the Public Theater, Cooper Union, a building still bearing the name “Amalgamated Insurance,” and the Mud Coffee stand. The experience made me realize that, yes, I have experienced some history right here in lower Manhattan. 

Sitting out-of-doors with my Mud Coffee cappuccino, I began to puzzle just which building had once been the headquarters of the radical-ish District 65 labor union. Oh yeah, it’s the building next to the one that long ago housed a Wanamaker’s department store—and where the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union lived when I was briefly on staff back in the early 1980s. 

I can recall going to meetings at District 65 and listening that that union’s second-in-command, Cleveland Robinson, denounce some injustice (South Africa, maybe?) in his profoundly resonant, Caribbean-accented voice. I attended performances of the Mabou Mines theater troupe–featuring my college friend Ellen McElduff–at the Public Theater.

Another memory: No sooner had I taken a job, in 1980, with the Amalgamated than I found myself on strike against the union! So, there we were, the 20-odd members of the union’s “professional staff,” marching around in a small picket-line circle outside of the Wanamaker Building. They left us out there for two weeks, just to teach us who was boss, then giving us a small pay hike to bring everyone back inside.

I attended socialist meetings at NYU and Cooper Union—and of course the occasional demonstration at Union Square.

Memories seem to be particularly haunting me during this trip. I’m sure I will come up with more.