Welcome to the Hotel America

A Room on 42nd street

So, here I am at the beginning of the 1970s, in a room looking out on 42nd Street in New York City. The cat sits on the sill of the single window. In the bungalow back in 2021 she had eight windows to look out. She would go from window to window getting different perspectives. Eight perspectives. Here she has one. She watches the madness in the street below and listens to the noise of jackhammers during the day and the sound of gunshots at night.

I’m watching the news on a small black & white TV. It is May 4th, 1970. This image comes on the screen—

In a room on 42nd Street

—and becomes a fixture in my mind, as it does in the collective mind of America for decades to come.

Students at Ohio State University were protesting Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War. The National Guard was called in. The guardsmen advanced on the unarmed students with fixed bayonets on their M1 rifles. Some of the protesters threw stones. One guardsman fired a shot from his .45-caliber pistol. That single shot exploded into a volley of 67 shots. Thirteen seconds later four students were dead—

In a room on 42nd Street
MURDERED: William Schroeder, 19, Allison Krause, 19, Jeffrey Miller, 20, and Sandra Lee Scheuer, 20.

—19 and 20 years old, their whole lives ahead of them, cut down on campus. Nine students were wounded, one of them paralyzed for life. The protesters retreated in horror.

The girl in the photo wasn’t a student. Mary Ann Vecchio was a 14-year-old runaway from a troubled home in Florida who had hitched rides north and just happened to be on the Kent State campus that day.

She was a mixed-up kid, a nobody, and suddenly her photograph was seen around the world in an iconic image of an American tragedy. That incident and that photo messed with her head, and her life became one of delinquency and juvenile detention centers. I wrote about Kent State and the aftermath here.

My cat and I are in the room on 42nd Street. She’s looking out the window at a drug deal in the street below. I’m looking at the slaughter of four unarmed kids on campus.

Welcome to America.

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Scene of the crime

Dear Guido, just a quick note to say that my trip back to the 1970s went without a hitch. I rented a furnished apartment on 42nd Street above an Italian restaurant (!!!) — perfetto, si?

Although, apartment is too grandiose a word for this place. Basically it’s a room with a bed, a hot plate, a fridge and a tiny bathroom — and a couple of resident cockroaches. But it has a lovely “terrace” ha-ha — the landing of a fire escape that drops down to 42nd Street. The place is perfect for an old immigrato bastard like me. Back to the scene of the crime, as the saying goes.

This was my first view of America when I arrived here in 1975. Then a lot of shit happened. More than forty years for godsake. Well, you know most of it. Anyway, here I am, I’ve gone full circle.

Look after yourself, amico. These are merda times.

American Daze Purple Haze

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Screw it, man!


To hell with 2021, it’s turning out worse than 2020.

Screw that, man, I’m going back to the 1970s — the ‘Me Decade,’ as novelist Tom Wolfe called it. He meant it disparagingly, taking a swipe at the self-absorbed baby boomers.

So we were self-absorbed — big deal. At least we had fun, unlike the current misery of endless ‘variants’ of the pandemic lined up like planes at LaGuardia, lockdowns and shut-ins, jabs and masks, despots trying to herd us all into sheep pens and control our every move and our minds and our bodies. Pardon my French, but, putain cette merde, mec.

The 1970s was a decade of free spirits, uninhibited sex, drugs, sweet, stoned flowing love, and some of the best songs.

Let’s start with the music.


Compiled by Top Culture (thanks, man)

PART 1: January 1970 — December 1974


PART 2: January 1975 — December 1979

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