Living My Life : Volume 2, Chapter 39
(1869 - 1940) ~ Russian-American Mother of Anarcho-Communism : She is an Anarchist, pure and simple. She represents the idea of Anarchism as framed by Josiah Warren, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy. Yet she also understands the psychologic causes which induce a Caserio, a Vaillant, a Bresci, a Berkman, or a Czolgosz to commit deeds of violence. (From : Hippolyte Havel Bio.)
• "The individual educator imbued with honesty of purpose, the artist or writer of original ideas, the independent scientist or explorer, the non-compromising pioneers of social changes are daily pushed to the wall by men whose learning and creative ability have become decrepit with age." (From : "Minorities Versus Majorities," by Emma Goldman.)
• "...slavery of any kind, compulsion under any form, must break down, and from which freedom, full and unlimited freedom, for all and from all must come." (From : "Anarchy Defended By Anarchists," by Emma Goldman ....)
• "Man's greatest battles have been waged against man-made obstacles and artificial handicaps imposed upon him to paralyze his growth and development. Human thought has always been falsified by tradition and custom, and perverted false education in the interests of those who held power and enjoyed privileges." (From : "The Place of the Individual in Society," by Emma ....)
Volume 2, Chapter 39
ON MY RETURN EAST I LEARNED OF THE DEATH OF VOLTAIRINE DE Cleyre. Her end affected me very deeply; her whole life had been a continuous chain of suffering. Death had come after an operation for an abcess on the brain which had impaired her memory. A second operation, her friends had been informed, would have deprived her of the power of speech. Voltairine, always stoical in pain, preferred death. Her end, on June 19, was a great loss to our movement and to those who valued her strong personality and unusual talents.
In compliance with her last request Voltairine was buried in Waldheim Cemetery, near the graves of our Chicago comrades. Their martyrdom had awakened Voltairine's soul as it had so many other fine spirits. But few had so completely consecrated themselves to their cause as she, and fewer still had her genius to serve the ideal with singleness of purpose.
Arrived in Chicago, I went out to Waldheim with Annie Livshis, a dear common friend. Voltairine had made her home with Annie and Jake Livshis, and she had been tenderly nursed by our devoted comrades to the very last. I went to the cemetery with red carnations in my arms, while Annie carried red geraniums to be added to those she had already planted on the fresh grave. These were the only monument Voltairine had ever wanted.
Voltairine de Cleyre was born of a Quaker mother and a French father. The latter, in his youth an admirer of Voltaire, had named his daughter after the great philosopher. Later her father, having turned conservative, had placed her in a Catholic convent school, from which Voltairine subsequently escaped, rebelling against the authority of both. She was exceptionally gifted as poet, writer, and lecturer. She would have gained high position and renown had she been one to market her talents, but she would not accept even the simplest comforts for her activities in the various social movements. She shared the fate of the lowly whom she sought to teach and inspire. Revolutionary vestal, she lived as the poorest of the poor in dreary and wretched surroundings, taxing her body to the utmost, sustained only by her ideal.
Voltairine began her public career as a pacifist, and for many years she sternly set her face against revolutionary methods. But greater familiarity with European developments, the Russian Revolution of 1905, the rapid growth of capitalism in her own country, with all its resultant violence and injustice, and particularly the Mexican Revolution, subsequently changed her attitude. After an inner struggle, Voltairine's intellectual integrity compelled her to admit her error frankly and to stand up bravely for the new vision. She did so in a number of essays and especially when she took up work for the Mexican Revolution, which she considered of most vital consequence. She devoted herself entirely to it, writing, lecturing, and collecting funds. In her the movement for liberty and humanism, especially the anarchist cause, lost one of its most gifted and tireless workers.
As I stood beside Voltairine's grave, in the shadow of the monument dedicated to the memory of our comrades, I felt that another martyr had been added to them. She was the prototype of the sculptured Waldheim figure, beautiful in her spiritual defiance and filled with the revolt of a flaming ideal.
The year 1912, rich with varied experiences, closed with three important events: the appearance of Sasha's book, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the eleventh of November, and the seventieth birthday of Peter Kropotkin.
Sasha was reading the final proofs of his Prison Memoirs. In renewed agony he was living through again every detail of the fourteen years, and experiencing harrowing doubt as to whether he had succeeded in making them real in his work. He kept revising until our bill for author's corrections mounted to four hundred and fifty dollars. He was worried and exhausted, yet he hung on, going over his proofs again and again. The final chapters had to be taken from him almost by force to save him from the curse of his tormenting anxiety.
And now the book was ready at last. Verily, not a book, but a life suffered in the solitude of interminable prison days and nights, with all their pain and grief, their disillusionments, despair, and hope. Tears of joy sprang to my eyes as I held the precious volume in my hands. I felt it my triumph as well as Sasha's---our fulfillment of twenty years, giving the promise of Sasha's real resurrection from his prison nightmare, and my own release from the gnawing regret of not having shared his fate.
Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist was widely reviewed and acclaimed a work of art and a deeply moving human document. "A story of prison life by an author who spent fourteen years behind the bars gathering his material ought to have value as a human document," commented the New York Tribune. "When the writer, furthermore, wields his pen in the manner of the Slavic realists and is compared by critics with such men as Dostoyevsky and Andreieff, his work must possess a tremendous fascination as well as a social value."
The literary critic of the New York Globe stated that "nothing could exceed the uncanny spell exercised by this story. Berkman has succeeded in making you live his prison experiences with him, and his book is probably as complete a self-revelation as is humanly possible."
Such praise from the capitalist press helped to accentuate my disappointment over Jack London's attitude towards Sasha's book. Having been requested to write a preface for it, Jack had asked to see the manuscript. After he had read it, he wrote us in his impetuous way how tremendously he was impressed by it. But his preface turned out to be a lame apology for the fact that he, a socialist, was writing an introduction to the work of an anarchist. At the same time it was a condemnation of Sasha's ideas. Jack London had not failed to see the human and the literary qualities of the book. What he wrote was even more laudatory than most of the reviews. But London insisted on using his preface for a long discussion of his own social theories versus anarchism. Inasmuch as Sasha's book did not deal with theories, but with life, Jack's attitude was absurd. His argument was summarized in his dictum: " The man who can't shoot straight can't think straight." Evidently Jack assumed that the world's best thinkers were also the best shots.
Sasha, who had gone to see Jack, pointed out that the great Danish critic Georg Brandes, though not an anarchist, had written a sympathetic preface to Peter Kropotkin's Memoirs of a Revolutionist without attempting to air his own theories. As artist and humanist Brandes had appreciated the big personality of Kropotkin.
"Brandes was not writing in America," London replied. "If he had been, he would most likely have displayed a different attitude."
Sasha understood; Jack London feared offending his publishers and incurring the censure of his party. The artist in Jack longed to soar, but the man in him kept his feet on the ground. His own best literary efforts, as he himself said, were buried in his trunk because his publishers wanted only works sure to bring financial results. And there were Glen Ellen and also other responsibilities to meet. Jack left no doubt on the matter, by remarking: "I have a family to support." Perhaps he did not realize how self-condemnatory his justification was.
Sasha refused Jack's preface. Instead we asked our friend Hutchins Hapgood to write an introduction to Prison Memoirs. He had never proclaimed himself an adherent of any ism, nor did he sign his letters: "Yours for the revolution," as Jack London used to do. He was, however, enough of a literary rebel and social iconoclast to appreciate the spirit of Sasha's book.
Jack London was not the only one who condemned while praising. There were others, even in our own ranks, among them S. Yanofsky, the editor of the Freie Arbeiter Stimme. He was one of the speakers at the banquet given to celebrate the appearance of Sasha's book. He was the only one of the five hundred guests who interjected a discordant note into the otherwise beautifully harmonious evening. Yanofsky paid high tribute to Sasha's Memoirs as the "mature product of a mature mind," but he "regretted the useless and futile act of a silly boy." I felt outraged by the man's denouncing the Attentat on the occasion of the birth of Sasha's book, a work conceived in that heroic moment of July 1892 and nourished by tears and blood throughout the dark and terrible years that followed. When I was called upon to speak, I turned upon the man who presumed to represent a great ideal and yet who was lacking in the least understanding of one so truly the idealist.
"To you the impressionable youth of Alexander Berkman appears silly," I said, "and his Attentat futile. You are by no means the first to take such a stand towards the idealist whose humanity can tolerate no injustice and endure no wrong. From time immemorial the wise and practical have denounced every heroic spirit. Yet it has not been they who have influenced our lives. The idealists and visionaries, foolish enough to throw caution to the winds and express their ardor and faith in some supreme deed, have advanced mankind and have enriched the world. The one whose work we are here to celebrate happens to be such a futile visionary. His act was the protest of a sensitive spirit that would rather perish for his ideal than continue for a lifetime as a smug inhabitant of a complaisant and callous world. If our comrade did not perish, it was certainly not due to the mercy of those who had openly declared he should not survive his living grave. It was due entirely to the same traits that inspired Alexander Berkman's act: his unwavering purpose, his indomitable will, and his faith in the ultimate triumph of his ideal. These elements have gone into the making of the 'silly' youth, into his act and into his martyrdom of fourteen years. It is these same elements that have inspired the creation of Prison Memoirs. Whatever greatness and humanity the book possesses, they are woven of these elements. There is no gap between the silly youth and the mature man. There is a continuous flow, a red thread that winds like a leitmotif throughout the entire life of Alexander Berkman."
November 11, 1887 --- November 11, 1921! Twenty-five years, an infinitesimal fraction of time in the upward march of the race, but an eternity for him who dies many deaths in the course of his life. The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chicago martyrdom intensified my feeling for the men I had never personally known, but who by their death had become the most decisive influence in my existence. The spirit of Parsons, Spies, Lingg, and their coworkers seemed to hover over me and give deeper meaning to the events that had inspired my spiritual birth and growth.
November 11, 1912 came at last. Numerous labor organizations and anarchist groups worked feverishly to make the anniversary an impressive memorial. They arrived in large numbers in the hall, their flaming red banners covering the balconies and walls. The platform was decorated in red and black. The life-size portraits of our comrades were hung with wreaths. The presence of the hateful Anarchist Squad only helped to increase the bitter resentment of the crowd against the forces that had crushed the Haymarket victims.
I was one of the many speakers eager to pay tribute to our precious dead and to recall once more the valor and heroism of their lives. I awaited my turn, stirred to the roots by the historic occasion, its great social significance and personal meaning to me. Memories of the distant past flitted through my mind --- Rochester and a woman's voice ringing like music in my ears: "You will love our men when you learn to know them, and you will make their cause your own!" In times of ascent to heights, in days of faintheartedness and doubt, in hours of prison isolation, of antagonism and censure from one's own kind, in failure of love, in friendships broken and betrayed --- always their cause was mine, their sacrifice my support.
I stood erect before the dense mass of people. Its tense feeling mingled with mine, and all our hate and all our love were concentrated in my voice. "They are not dead," I cried; "they are not dead, the men we have come to honor tonight! Out of their quivering bodies dangling from the noose, new lives have emerged to take up the strains throttled on the scaffold. With a thousand voices they proclaim that our martyrs are not dead!"
Preparatory work was beginning for the celebration of the seventieth birthday of Peter Kropotkin. He was a prominent figure in the realm of learning, recognized as such by the foremost men of the world. But to us he meant much more than that. We saw in him the father of modern anarchism, its revolutionary spokesman and brilliant exponent of its relation to science, philosophy, and progressive thought. As a personality he towered high above most of his contemporaries by virtue of his humanity and faith in the masses. Anarchism to him was not an ideal for the select few. It was a constructive social theory, destined to usher in a new world for all of mankind. For this he had lived and labored all his life. The seventieth anniversary of such a person was therefore of great moment to all who knew and loved him.
Months before, we had written to his admirers in European countries, and to our own leading comrades, for contributions to the Kropotkin-birthday edition of Mother Earth. Everybody responded generously. Now the December issue was ready, containing tributes to Peter Kropotkin by Georg Brandes, Edward Carpenter, Professor George D. Herron, Tom Mann, J. Morrison-Davidson, Bayard Boyesen, Anna Strunsky Walling and her husband, Rose Strunsky, Leonard D. Abbott, and leading anarchists throughout the world. In conjunction with the special Kropotkin issue of our magazine a big meeting took place in Carnegie Hall, arranged by us in co-operation with the Freie Arbeiter Stimme Association. As on the pages of Mother Earth, every speaker paid tribute to Kropotkin, our common teacher and inspiration.
Peter was deeply moved by these expressions of love and affection. In token of appreciation he sent us the following letter:
DEAR COMRADES AND FRIENDS:
First of all, let me express to you my warmest, heartiest thanks for all the kind words and thoughts you have addressed to me, and then to voice through your pages the same heartiest thanks to all the comrades and friends who have sent me such warm and friendly letters and telegrams on the occasion of my seventieth birthday.
I need not tell you, nor could I word it on paper, how deeply I was touched by all these expressions of sympathy, and how I felt that "something brotherly" which keeps us anarchists united by a feeling far deeper than the mere sense of solidarity in a party; and I am sure that that feeling of brotherhood will have some day its effect, when history will call upon us to show what we are worth, and how far we can act in harmony for the reconstruction of society upon a new basis of equality and freedom.
And then let me add that if all of us have contributed to some extent to the work of liberation of exploited mankind, it is because our ideas have been more or less the expression of the ideas that are germinating in the very depths of the masses of the people. The more I live, the more am I convinced that no truthful and useful social science, and no useful and truthful social action is possible but the science which bases its conclusions, and the action which bases its acts, upon the thoughts and the inspirations of the masses. All sociological science and all social actions which do not do that must remain sterile.
With full heart with you,
The effect on Ben of his San Diego experience proved to be stronger and more lasting than any of us had expected. He remained in the throes of those harrowing days and he became a victim of the idée fixe that he must return there. He followed his activities with even more than his wonted energy, working as if driven by furies and driving everybody else in turn. I became to him a means rather than an end, the end being meetings, meetings, meetings, and plans for more meetings. But I saw that he did not really live in his work, or in our love. His whole being was centered on San Diego, and it became almost a hallucination with him. He taxed my powers of endurance, and often my affection, by his constant insistence on starting for the Coast. His restlessness kept increasing and he was not content until we were finally on our way.
Our Los Angeles friends were strongly opposed to our returning to San Diego. They said that Ben's obsession was nothing but bravado, and that I was weak in giving in to his irrational scheme. They even brought the matter to the attention of the audience at our last meeting, urging a unanimous vote against our going.
I knew that our friends were concerned only for our safety, but I could not agree with them. I did not feel about San Diego as Ben did; to me it was but one of the many towns in the United States where free speech had been gagged and its defenders maltreated. To such places I always kept returning until the right of free speech was again established there. That was one of the motives for my wanting to go back to San Diego, but it was by no means the strongest motive. I was certain that Ben would not be freed from the hold of that city unless he returned to the scene of the May outrage. My love for him had grown more intense with the years. I could not permit him to go to San Diego alone. I therefore informed my comrades that I would go with Ben, no matter what might be awaiting us there. It seemed incredible that any group of people, however savage in time of excitement, would repeat such brutalities after the lapse of a year, particularly since the Vigilantes and San Diego had been placed in the pillory by country-wide condemnation.
An active worker in our ranks volunteered to precede us to San Diego, secure a hall, and advertise my lecture, which was again to be on "An Enemy of the People." Before long he notified us that all was well and promising.
After our last meeting in Los Angeles we were taken by our friends Dr. and Mrs. Percival T. Gerson to the railroad station. On the way Ben's excitement reached such a pitch that the doctor suggested a sanatorium instead of San Diego. But Ben insisted that nothing would cure him except to go back. In the train he became deathly pale, and large drops of perspiration poured over his face. His body shook with nervousness and fear. All night he tossed about sleeplessly in his berth.
Except for my concern about him I was singularly calm. I was wide awake and sat up reading Comrade Yetta by "Albert Edwards." An interesting book always made me forget a difficult situation. This volume was by Arthur Bullard, one of our friends who had co-operated with us during Babushka's visit to New York. His powerful story and its Russian theme brought back to me the days gone by. The last two hours of our trip Ben was fast asleep, and I was so lost in the past that I was unaware we were nearing San Diego. The bustle of our fellow-passengers recalled me to reality. I dressed hurriedly and then woke Ben.
It was early dawn, and only a few passengers got off the train. The platform was deserted as we made our way towards the exit. But before we had proceeded far, five men suddenly confronted us. Four of them exposed detective badges and informed us that we were under arrest. I demanded the reason for our detention, but they gruffly ordered us to come with them.
San Diego was asleep as we walked to the police station. Something in the appearance of the man accompanying the officers seemed familiar to me. I strove to remember where I had seen him before. Then it dawned on me that it was he who had come to my room in the U. S. Grant Hotel to tell me that I was wanted by the authorities. I recognized him as the reporter who had caused our former difficulties there. He was a leader of the Vigilantes!
Ben and I were locked up. There was nothing to be done but await developments. I again took up my book. Weary, I put my head on the little cell table and dozed off.
"You must have been very tired to sleep like that," the matron said as she woke me. "Didn't you hear the racket?" She looked fixedly at me. " Better have some coffee," she added, not unkindly. " You may need your strength before the day is over."
Noises and yelling came from the street. "The Vigilantes," the matron said in a low voice. There were loud cries outside and I could hear voices calling: "Reitman! We want Reitman!" Then came the tooting of automobile horns and the shriek of the riot signal. And again cries of "Reitman!" My heart sank.
The riot call boomed and howled. The noises beat like tomtoms on my brain. Why had I ever let Ben come, I thought; it was madness, madness! They could not forgive him for returning. They wanted his life!
In a frenzy I rapped on my cell door. The matron arrived and with her the Chief of Police and several detectives.
"I want to see Dr. Reitman!" I demanded.
"That's what we've come for," the Chief replied. "He wants you to consent to being taken out of town, and your other comrade too."
"What other comrade?"
"The chap who arranged your meeting. He's in the jail, and lucky for him he is."
"You're playing the benefactor again," I retorted; "but you won't dupe me this time. Take those two out of town. I will not go under your protection."
"All right," he growled. "Come and talk to Reitman yourself."
The pale horror staring at me out of Ben's eyes made me realize the meaning of fear as I had never seen it before. "Let's get out of town," he whispered, trembling. "We can't hold the meeting anyway. Chief Wilson promises to get us away safe. Please say yes."
I had completely forgotten our meeting. It was my objection to leaving under police protection that made me urge Ben to go himself.
"It is your life that is in danger," I said; "they don't want me. No harm will come to me. But in any case I can't run away."
"All right, I'll stay too," he replied determinedly.
I struggled with myself for a moment. I knew that if I let him stay, I should jeopardize his life and possibly also the safety of the other comrade. There was no other way out; I should have to consent.
No play was ever staged with greater melodrama than our rescue from the San Diego jail and our ride to the railroad station. At the head of the procession marched a dozen policemen, each carrying a shot-gun, with revolvers sticking in their belts. Then came the Chief of Police and the Chief of Detectives, heavily armed, Ben between them. I followed with two officers on each side. Behind me was our young comrade. And behind him more police.
Our appearance was greeted with savage howls. As far as the eye could reach, there was a swaying, jostling human pack. The shrill cries of women mingled with the voices of the men, drunk with the lust of blood. The more venturesome of them tried to make a rush for Ben.
"Back, back! " shouted the Chief. "The prisoners are under the protection of the law. I demand respect for the law. Get back!"
Some applauded him, others jeered. He proudly led the procession through the phalanxes of police, accompanied by the yelling of the frenzied crowd.
Automobiles were waiting us, gaily bedecked with American flags. One of them had rifles posted at every corner. Police and plain-clothes men stood on the running-board. I recognized the reporter among them. We were piled into this armed citadel, Chief Wilson standing over us like a stage hero, with a shot-gun pointed at the mob. Cameras from houses and tree-tops began to click, the sirens screamed, the riot call boomed again, and off we dashed, followed by the other cars and the angry bellowing of the mob.
At the railroad station we were pushed into a Pullman, six policemen crowding around Ben. Just as the train was about to start, a man ran in, shoved the officers aside, and spat full in Ben's face. Then he rushed out again.
"That's Porter," Ben cried, "the leader of last year's attack on me!"
I thought of the savagery of the mob, terrifying yet fascinating at the same time. I realized why Ben's previous experience had so obsessed him until it had driven him back to San Diego. I felt the overwhelming power of the crowd's concentrated passion. I knew I should find no peace until I had returned to it, to subdue it or to be destroyed.
I would go back, I promised myself, but not with Ben. There was no relying on him in a critical moment. I knew he had imaginative flights, but strength of will he had not. He was impulsive, but he lacked stamina and a sense of responsibility. These traits of his character had repeatedly clouded our lives and made me tremble for our love. I grieved to realize that Ben was not of heroic stuff. He was not of the texture of Sasha, who had courage enough for a dozen men and extraordinary coolness and presence of mind in moments of danger.
Perhaps courage, I thought, is nothing remarkable in those who know no fear. I was sure Sasha had never known fear. And I, during the McKinley panic, had I feared for my life? No, I had had no fear for myself, though I had often felt it for others. It was always this, and my exaggerated sense of responsibility, that compelled me to do things I hated to do. Are we really courageous, we who do not know fear, if we remain firm in the face of danger? Ben was consumed with terror, yet he went back to San Diego. Was that not real courage? Inwardly I strove to exonerate Ben, to find some justification for his readiness to run away.
The train sped on. Ben's face was close to mine, his voice whispering endearments, his eyes gazing pleadingly into mine. As so often before, all my doubts and all my pain dissolved in my love for my impossible boy.
In Los Angeles and San Francisco we were fêted as heroes, though we had both shamefully run away. I did not feel very comfortable about it, but I was gratified by the exceptional interest in my lectures. The two that drew the largest audiences were those on "Victims of Morality " and on Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist.
Upon our return to New York Ben urged a larger house to give us better living-quarters and also enough room for a combination office and book-shop. He was sure he could build up a good trade to help make Mother Earth independent of tours. Ben was anxious to have his mother under the same roof with him, especially now that she was not well.
We found a place at 74 East One Hundred and Nineteenth Street, a ten-room house in good condition. The parlor, conveniently seating a hundred people, was the very thing we needed for small sessions and social gatherings; the basement was light and spacious enough for an office and book-shop; the upper floors would afford privacy for each of us. I had never dreamed of such comfort, yet the cost of the rent and heating was lower than our previous expenditures for these items. The large house would need someone to look after it, because I should be busy revising my drama lectures for publication.
I decided to invite my friend Rhoda Smith as housekeeper. She was a few years younger than I and full of the lightheartedness of the French race. But beneath her lightness were the sterling qualities of kindness and dependability. She was a splendid housekeeper and cook, and, like most French women, very skillful with her hands. No less deft was she with her tongue, especially when she had looked a little too deeply into her glass. Her language, always very spicy, would then become hot. Not everyone could stand its flavor or its sting.
We needed a secretary for our office work, and Ben suggested a friend of his, Miss M. Eleanor Fitzgerald. I had first met her in Chicago, during our free-speech campaign. She was a striking girl with red hair, delicate skin, and blue-green eyes. Very fond of Ben, she had no inkling of his ways with women. She did not know of my relationship with Ben and she was considerably shocked when I told her that we were very much more to each other than merely manager and lecturer. Miss Fitzgerald (or "Lioness," as Ben called her, because of her red mane of hair) was a most likable person, with something very fine and large about her. In fact, she was the only real personality among all the obsessions Ben had imposed on me through the years. Ben kept stressing the need of a secretary. "Lioness" was very competent, he assured me; she had held several responsible positions, and had recently become manager of a sanatorium in South Dakota. She was interested in our work and she would be glad to give up her job and join us in New York.
Our new quarters were ready and we began breaking up our old home. When I had first moved into 210 East Thirteenth Street, in 1903, to share the flat with the Horrs, we were the first tenants in the recently built house. Since then the police had repeatedly tried to have me put out, but my landlord remained steadfast, arguing that I had never given cause for complaint, and that I was the oldest tenant. The others, indeed, had changed so often in nationality, character, and station that I had lost count. From business men to day-laborers, from preachers to gamblers, from Jewish women with wigs on their heads to street girls flaunting their charms on the stoop, they were a constant human tide coming in, staying awhile, and ebbing again.
There were no facilities for heating at 210, except the kitchen stove, and my room was farthest from it. It faced the yard and looked right into the windows of a large printing house. The nerve-racking buzz of its linotypes and presses never let up. My room was the living-room, dining-room, and Mother Earth office, all in one. I slept in a little alcove behind my bookcase. There was always someone sleeping in front, someone who had stayed too late and lived too far away or who was too shaky on his feet and needing cold compresses or who had no home to go to.
All the other tenants of the house were in the habit of applying to us when ill or in trouble. Our most frequent callers, usually in the wee hours of the morning, were the gamblers. Expecting a raid, they would run up the fire-escape to ask us to hide their paraphernalia. "In your place," they once told me, "the police may look for bombs, but never for chips." Everyone in distress came to us in 210 as to an oasis in the desert of their lives. It was flattering, but at the same time wearying, never to have any privacy by day or at night.
Our little flat had grown very dear to me; a good deal of my life had been spent in it. It had witnessed a decade of the most varied activities, and men and women famous in the annals of life had laughed and cried there. The Russian campaigns of Catherine Breshkovskaya and of Tchaikovsky, the Orleneff work, free-speech fights and revolutionary propaganda, not to speak of the many personal dramas, with all their griefs and joys, had flowed through the historic place. The entire kaleidoscope of human tragedy and comedy had been reflected in colorful variegation within the walls of 210. No wonder my good friend Hutch Hapgood often urged that together we write the story of that "home of lost dogs." He was especially insistent on emphasizing its romance and pathos whenever we both felt young and gay and desperately flirted our way into each other's hearts. Alas, I was fond of his wife, and he of Ben, and so we remained shamelessly faithful, and the story unwritten.
Ten years had streamed by in a rushing current, with little leisure to reflect on how dear the place had grown to me. Only when the time came to leave it did I realize how rooted I had become at 210. Taking a last look at the empty rooms, I walked out with a feeling of deep loss. Ten most interesting years of my life left behind!
From : Anarchy Archives
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