About the Portuguese women
"Because I had seen some Portuguese women in the Ironbound section of Newark, New Jersey, near where I live, and the looked very beautiful and womanly to me, and it made me feel that I was in a romantic and warm place far away, like Lisbon."
From Impressions of Portugal, the Passionate Eye
Suzanne on the concept
behind the expression Ironbound:
"I could have written a whole album about what it means
to be bound by iron, married, or to be confined by your small
town, to be a weed and entrapped in netting, any kind of grille...
It's a common urban image to see living things trying to grow
up in a very inflexible environment."
"The Cutting Edge of Folk" from
Clockwatch Review, Volume 4, No. 2, 7-14-87/8-9-87. Reprinted
in 'Bullet in Flight', 1990 (http://www.vega.net/bif.htm)
Suzanne on the relationship
between people and chicken parts:
"Yeah. It was about the women in Ironbound.
Obviously, if it was just about chicken parts, you could put
in words like liver or gizzards, and it would never work. But
the breasts and thighs and hearts, that's a whole side of life.
Some people don't get that thing. There's the words, and the
thing behind the words."
Interview with Paul Zollo in Song Talk, Vol. 2, #17, Spring 1992, also published in "Language", 5:1 August 1992, (http://www.vega.net/songtal2.htm) trancription by Steve Zwanger
"Blue Sky and Blood
on 10th Avenue" from The New York Times Magazine, November
20, 1988. Reprinted in 'Bullet in Flight', 1990, and later on
in The Passionate Eye. (http://www.vega.net/blood.htm):
"When I was growing up I spent five years in Spanish Harlem
and ten years on the Upper West Side. The streets were always
crowded with different types of people: kids from the projects,
white liberals, students from Columbia. But I didn't hang out
much. You could find me in my room, or in the park by the river.
Facing south on an afternoon and seeing the angles of sunlight
gave me a weird sense of orientation. As a child, I felt: "The
sun is there. It's high and on my right. I am here. Everything
is 0.K." As an adult I had stopped going to the park on
the weekends, and that feeling rarely, if ever, visited again.
So it was about 4 o'clock on a cold Sunday, and I was out walking
downtown. At 10th Avenue and 14th Street, or thereabouts, suddenly
the rest of the city fell away, and I felt that same weird sense
of orientation. I was in the meat market area.
The buildings in front of me were long and low, and the sky
seemed very wide and intensely blue. It was a shock after the
relentless verticality of the city behind me. Because of the
cobblestone streets, the tin doors with porthole windows like
a ship's kitchen, the ivy on the bricks, the river on my right,
I thought for a minute I was somewhere else. Cannery Row, maybe.
It was quiet and still, with a lonely feeling. A strange landscape
of cool, fat shadows and slices of dazzling sun on tin. Later,
when I lived on Horatio Street where the meat market ends, I
learned the neighborhood's other moods and faces, but 4 o'clock
on a Sunday afternoon is still my favorite time of day there.
If you look past the serene surface, you find clues to the violence
beneath. The most obvious are the painted signs, worn and flaking:
"Baby Lamb! Young Kid! Fancy Poultry!" "Breasts,
Thighs, Hearts, Livers, Wings." "Boxed Beef."
Words that in another context can be sensual, or tender, or
playfully erotic, here read like pornography or skewered poetry.
The elevated tracks with their big metal beams seem to shelter
this empty place. Pigeons roost under these beams, and fly freely
where their relatives are slaughtered every day. Little rivers
of blood run along the cracks in the sidewalk, mixing with the
sawdust. Or your foot is surprised by a skid of animal fat,
white and greasy.
It feels like an underworld. If you see anyone, it might be
a man with a wool cap and a big belly and a cigar. He doesn't
want you looking at him or minding his business. There is an
atmosphere of unseen deals, people watching and being watched,
violence about to happen.
And at night when the meat shops close, the other "meat
shops" open -- the transvestites begin peddling after dark.
What are they selling, exactly? I'm not sure. Things are displayed,
discussed, bargained for and maybe sold in a quick sleight-of-hand;
but you see it only from the corner of your eye, as you walk
by fast or speed past in a car. Long, thin mincing men, swaybacked
and fiercely feminine, parade on the corners, their skinny masculine
legs tottering in high heels and ragged pantyhose. Sometimes
there is a bonfire, and you see a few of them, with one womanly
man dressed in what seems to be a bathing suit and a full-length
fur coat, calling to you, laughing, preening, fixing his lipstick.
The graffiti read: "Silence = Death." "Linda,
I love you. Frank."
In the morning, though, the place bustles. That's the time I'm
least familiar with. It's crowded with trucks and truckers --
to get anywhere you wind and dodge your way through a thick
traffic of men in bloody white aprons and slabs of meat swinging
on hooks. By 2 in the afternoon it has settled down. By 4 o'clock
it has regained the stoic feeling of an Edward Hopper painting,
with calm cubes of color and long rectangular shadows, and a
soft, windy rustle of pigeons and the river."