Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writers Guild Office Boy 1971 (xxvi)

The second interesting encounter I had in the first two months of 1971 was bumping into Sue on a subway train going uptown in Manhattan in late February 1971. Sue had been a womanfriend of a Citizenship Council bureaucrat and Columbia SDS sophomore caucus member during the 1967-1968 academic year when I last attended Columbia College and she was then a sophomore at Barnard College.

After recognizing Sue across the subway car, I sat down next to her, quickly learned that she was then studying to be a nurse at Columbia’s Medical School near W. 168th Street and exchanged phone numbers with her. Because Sue no longer was living with the Columbia SDS guy she had been living with during the 67-68 academic year, I telephoned her a week or two later. We then agreed that I'd meet her at her apartment in Washington Heights on March 8, 1971 and then go out for dinner together.

Bumping into Sue brought back memories of the pre-1969 Columbia-Barnard New Left scene that was already beginning to seem like ancient history, now that nearly a year had gone by since Ted’s death in the West Village Townhouse explosion at W. 11th Street. And the feeling generated by some of these memories sparked by bumping into Sue and from working for the Writers Guild within the U.S. television network world inspired me to write the “Saw Sue On A Train” folk song around this time.

I never memorized the “Saw Sue On A Train” folk song and, by the mid-1970s I had thrown out the lyric sheet for the “Saw Sue On A Train” folk song. So I no longer can recall all the words. What I do remember of the “Saw Sue On A Train” folk song, though, is that it did include the following lyrics:

“Saw Sue on a train
Got lost in the rain…
Seize their TV
Then speak freely…”

Ironically—given the “seize their TV, then speak freely” lyrics of the “Saw Sue On A Train” folk song—when, carrying a bouquet of flowers, I arrived in Sue’s apartment near W. 168th St. on International Women’s Day in March 1971, we heard on the radio that a group of radical feminists had chosen that day to non-violently sit-in at the CBS corporate offices for awhile, to demand free speech rights for the Women’s Liberation Movement, prior to being arrested at the request of the white corporate male television network executives at CBS.

A few weeks before this March 8, 1971 protest by the radical feminists inside one of the television network offices, I had mailed a copy of the key to the Writers Guild union office (which I had been given when I was first hired by the Writers Guild) to the radical feminist Movement women who worked at the New York Newsreel office. Just in case they felt like a women’s takeover of the Writers Guild office one evening (using the key I mailed them to gain entry to the Writers Guild union office) might be a good, dramatic way to demand an immediate end to institutional sexism and institutional racism within the U.S. mass media world and at the U.S. television networks.

But when the group of radical feminists protested inside the CBS offices on March 8, 1971, no supportive women’s takeover of the Writers Guild union office, using the copy of the office key I had mailed to the Newsreel women, happened at the same time.

While we were listening to news of the radical feminists protest inside the CBS officers, Sue mentioned that late 1960s Irish civil rights movement activist Bernadette Devlin was going to be speaking at an International Women's Day event at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem later in the evening. So we agreed that after dinner we would then both go together to the Audubon Ballroom to hear Bernadette speak.

After a pleasant, but not too deep, chat over dinner at a local Dominican-Chinese restaurant, Sue and I then walked over to the Audubon ballroom to wait, with a few hundred other female and male supporters of women’s liberation and the early 1970s Movement in the United States, for Bernadette to arrive there and give her speech. But after a few hours of waiting, word arrived from Downtown Manhattan that a New York City newspaper columnist named Jimmy Breslin had apparently persuaded Bernadette to go see the Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier world heavyweight title fight at Madison Square Garden, which was happening on that same night--instead of going up to the Audubon Ballroom to give a speech at the International Women’s Day event there.

So Sue and I, along with the other audience members who had been waiting in the Audubon Ballroom for Bernadette, left the hall and returned to her apartment.

Although I had been excited when Sue agreed to go out on a date with me, when we returned to her apartment I soon concluded that she wasn’t really open to getting involved romantically with me. A short while after we arrived at her apartment, she received a long-distance telephone call from her former boyfriend in college, who now was a pre-med student in the Boston area. Then, for the next 20 minutes, Sue stayed on the telephone talking to her old boyfriend, while I patiently waited in her living room.

Since she seemed more interested now in talking on the telephone to her pre-med old boyfriend than to the hippie-anarchist-musician-type with whom she had been hanging out with during the previous few hours, I realized that it made little sense to stay around much longer in Sue's apartment once she got off the telephone.So the next memory I have is listening to the end of the Ali-Frazier fight on the radio in Sue’s apartment and, after it was announced that Frazier had defeated Ali, saying goodbye to Sue.

Heading back to my Bronx slum apartment on the subway, I felt sad that Muhammad Ali had not been able to regain the heavyweight championship title that had been stripped from him because of his morally courageous opposition to the Viet Nam War and his resistance to the U.S. military draft, sad that Sue didn’t seem to want to become involved romantically with me, sad that I hadn’t been able to hear Bernadette Devlin speak in-person that night and sad that Newsreel women hadn’t used the key I had mailed them to take over the Writers Guild union office that night. But the news that at least a few militant radical feminists had attempted to mark International Women’s Day be protesting inside the CBS executive offices did provide me with some encouragement.

I didn’t bother asking Sue for another date. But a few months later, when Sue was looking for some pot, she did telephone me and ask me if I could possibly obtain some grass for her. I told her I’d see if I could get some pot or hashish for her. But when I went down to Staten Island, no one was home at John’s pad, where I usually had been able to buy some bags of grass or hashish in the past.

So I took the bus back to the Staten Island ferry and then, after the ferry arrived in Manhattan, took the subway up to the East Village and tried buying some hashish from a hustler on the street near St. Mark’s Place. But, predictably, the street hustler ended up beating me for $30 by selling me some “hashish” which turned out to be just some sticky gum substance that looked like hashish.

So I had to telephone Sue and let her know I wouldn’t be able to help her out with her pot and hashish supply problem. And I only bumped into Sue one more time during the rest of the 20th century, at a late 1974 demonstration that was protesting white racism in Boston, where we briefly chatted.

Since Sue was then working as a nurse in the Boston area and I was, by then, just living in a cheap apartment in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, writing protest folk songs, and doing temp typing when I needed to come up with the money for the $100 per month rent, there didn’t seem much of a philosophical basis for attempting to keep in touch with Sue anymore in the future.