He often referred to himself as Johnny of West New York. The bravado of the nickname masked a paralyzing fear.
John Langsdorf was the best writer I’ve ever met. Early supporters included Allen Ginsberg and City Lights Books. John was also the most damaged writer, addicted to alcohol and Valium and cloistered away in a Hoboken railroad flat, walled in by agoraphobia.
”When life gets too much that one’s breathing, after frantic hyperventilation, shuts down and a fella gladly takes his mitts and shits his final load. So Charlie stashed 3 bags of D and 20 Percocets and promised not to dabble. They’d be his ticket. He felt relieved and moved about more freely, like a geek in Harlem holding automatic pistols in each pocket. Shoot any badass down, get a bunch of ’em, then off some fucking cops, kill everybody and just before they break in take one real hot fix and blow off to the Lord’s left hand.”
John Langsdorf, from a handwritten manuscript
Down at 410 is the story of our friendship, mixing my prose with John’s writings and pre-dawn letters to me. These letters were never mailed; instead John would hand them over when I’d show up at his door with a six-pack of MeisterBrau. John should have had a brilliant career. It didn’t happen.
I imagined us squaring off down by the railroad tracks. Paper cups a blowin’ in the wind. Friends – some cruel, some afraid and disgusted – ringing ’round us. No sun. No cars. Standing on hard-packed earth that has thrown little pebbles to the surface. Ugly plants dot the ground, with prickly stems and five-starred leaves covered with little invisible needles like velvet. In the distance, as we raise our fists, are many wires of phone, train and telegraph lining the horizon; little ceramic insulators hang on the rubber wire. A PomPom box lies on the ground between us. John is frightened, sweating fear he can’t hide. Myself – all my sadism is riding high. I’m thinking: He doesn’t have a chance. I can hit him hard as I want. Hurt him. Serve him right.
I start hitting him. He covers up. I hit him in the trash heap. He’s in pain. I smoke him.
From the memoir Down at 410
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