Thursday, July 24, 2014

Greff Fabrics Blues 1971 (xxii)

One reason I quit Greff Fabrics in late December 1971 was because of the shabby way its white executives/owners treated it African-American sample room supervisor, Rob, in early December 1971. The culturally straight white owner, Mr. Hamilton-- on the few occasions when he came downstairs to the sample room basement from his main floor Greff Fabrics office and showroom--had noticed that we sample clerks were laughing and talking to each other as we worked. In addition, Mr. Hamilton--who smelled heavily of cologne and deodorant--apparently didn't like my more natural, hippie-like smell--which was free of any cologne scent or strong deodorant scent.

So Mr. Hamilton concluded that the sample room supervisor, Rob, was being too lenient with the sample clerks he was supposed to be supervising. And, without any warning, Rob was suddenly informed by Mr. Hamilton that he was being fired and replaced by some culturally-straight, country-club golfing partner or friend, in his late 50s or early 60s of Mr. Hamilton--who apparently wanted to earn some additional money at some job again for awhile--named Mr. Garrison.

Since Rob's plans to get married in a few weeks had been based on his assumption that his job as sample room clerk supervisor at Greff Fabrics and his weekly wages were secure, being suddenly fired by the white boss, Mr. Hamilton, seemed like a quite shabby move to both Rob and the sample room clerks he supervised.

But since all the sample room clerks needed our jobs and were not in any kind of union, we did not walk or refuse to accept Mr. Garrison's supervision after Rob was given the axe. Instead, we just grumbled among ourselves about the injustice of Rob being given the axe in a way that would disrupt his marriage plans; and we accepted Mr. Garrison--who was an elderly corporate-type in a penguin suit and tie who--unlike Rob--wouldn't even allow us to work with a radio that played jazz and music softly in the background--sullenly.

So, not surprisingly, only a few weeks after Rob was fired, I ended up quitting my Greff Fabrics sample room job just before my sample room co-workers and I went out together for drinks after work, on the day before Christmas Eve, in some Mid-Manhattan bar.

During the last week of working at Greff Fabrics--after I had decided that I would move out of New York City and away from the East Coast by January 1972--I, coincidentally, bumped into Eileen again--in the Midtown Manhattan bookstore, Gotham Books, where we were both browsing between the book shelves after work one evening after work for awhile.

I had written a love song for Eileen, "Ms. Eileen," in the Spring of 1971--after first connecting with her in a spontaneous way in the Lehman College cafeteria one afternoon in April or May, when I noticed she was reading the Village Voice, after she just happened to sit down on the other side of the cafeteria table where I  happened to be sitting--and getting emotionally and physically close to each other for a few weeks.

But once Eileen realized how embittered I had become by my economic survival difficulties, poverty and pre-1971 anti-imperialist left activist experiences, she saw that it made neither economic nor emotional sense for her to leave the boyfriend she was then living with--who, given her recently acquired radical feminist consciousness, she felt she had outgrown-- and move in with me; despite the fact that I was more of a male feminist and less of a male chauvinist than was her current boyfriend. And in the Spring of 1971, I pretty much agreed with her that--given my growing economic desperation and growing anger at being denied access to welfare benefits, at my failure to find a new job and my falling deeper and deeper into poverty--it would, indeed, make no sense for her to leave her boyfriend--who had a good-paying straight job--for someone in my jobless, economically impoverished situation--even if I was less male-chauvinist, more emotionally open, more intellectual and more of a male feminist than was her current boyfriend.

When we bumped into each other again at the Gotham Books bookstore in December 1971, Eileen was still living with the same guy and still working part-time for some social welfare service agency. But now our emotional intimacy and closeness of 7 months ago seemed like ancient history, especially since Eileen now seemed to feel more appreciative of the emotionally and economically positive aspects of her love relationship with her boyfriend than she had seemed to feel 7 months before.

But since I had never played for Eileen the "Ms. Eileen" love song I had written for her, I invited Eileen, in a spontaneous way, to have dinner with me in the apartment in Queens I was crashing in that week, so that I could sing the "Ms. Eileen" song for her. And, surprisingly, Eileen spontaneously accepted my invitation, although it was clear to both of us that she no longer had any possible romantic interest in me, because her love relationship with the boyfriend she still lived with had become more satisfying; and because I was moving away from New York City and the East Coast in less than a week.

I no longer remember much of what we talked about on the subway and bus ride together from Manhattan to the Queens apartment where I was staying, although I recall that the time flew by fast, because we conversed the whole time in an animated way. I also don't remember what we ended up eating for dinner, although I don't think we each ate very much food.

What I do remember, though, is that I took out my guitar and sang the "Ms. Eileen" love song to Eileen. And that, after I finished singing the song, Eileen said: "You know, it's like you're a different person when you're singing than when you're talking."

And then, since it was getting near 8:30 or 9 o'clock, I can vaguely recall next taking the Q17 bus with Eileen back to the Flushing Main Street IRT station and quickly kissing her goodbye before she went downstairs into the station to take the subway back into Manhattan and then uptown towards the Bronx, to where she still lived with her boyfriend.

And because I never saw or spoke with Eileen (or bumped into Eileen) ever again, my memory of the last time I ever saw or spoke with Eileen is still associated with my memory of the last few days in which I worked for Greff Fabrics.

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