Sunday, 16 September 2012

1975 Kutsher's Country Club

After having stayed in S.Paulo for 2 years I thought it was about time to have another go and went back to the USA to catch up where I had left off. 

It was really painful to realize there's no such a thing as a 'second time around' and I learned it the hard way. I thought I would go back to the same job at the record factory. Things had moved on and I was sort of lost - all by myself - in a room I rented in Columbia Street, Newark with the radio blaring 'Love will keep us together' with Captain & Tenille #1 at Billboard.
Billboard's Top Five on 5 July 1975

1. Love will keep us together - The Captain & Tenille
2. The Hustle - Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony
3. Listen to what the man said - Paul McCartney & Wings
4. Love won't let me wait - Major Harris

My old friends were all gone or had moved on to better things. Guto had married Rose Nevoso and was living in Englewood, N.J. far away from old Brick Town! Damazio was back in Brazil. Everyone I knew in the record factory had moved somewhere else.  

I phoned Guto and told him I had brought a gift from his sister Alice who lived on Av. Brigadeiro Luiz Antonio in S.Paulo. He said he would meet me after work and drove from Englewood to Newark around 5:00 pm. Rose came along and we all went back to their place in a leafy neighbourhood starkly different from the 'dumps' of Newark. I had a feeling I didn't belong there anymore. Too much had happened in those 2 years and I felt I had been left behind.

I was impressed with Rose because of her pop music knowledge and cherished the conversation we had on that July evening! Rose knew all those Motown hits from the 60s and was also an expert in the progressive rock scene which is how she met Guto in the first place. They had met in a nightclub in Orange, NJ where British band Supertramp used to play before they became really famous. When Guto & Rose brought me back to Newark I had a sinking feeling I was at the bottom of a pit which would be quite hard to climb on up! I remember distinctly well Guto's car radio playing  Carly Simon's 'Anticipation'.

I wanted to work in a place where I could speak English instead of 'boring' Portuguese or Spanish. Walking around Greenwich Village I found a place to work at a delicatessen where I would refill the shelves with stuff and refrigerators with soft drinks that customers had bought. The guy who hired me was from a Mediterranean country. He could'a'been Greek or Yugoslav. He spoke minimal English and only gave me orders to do this and that in a most imperious way. I felt lonely because I didn't have anyone to talk to the whole day. I was really unhappy. On the second day I caught a cold due to my going in and out of the walk-in-fridge in the basement. At the end of my shift I took the PATH train to Newark on 9th Street and decided I would not go back to work there anymore. I decided I was going back to Brazil. Next day I went to Manhattan and bought me a Sony cassette tape-recorder and would fly back as soon as possible. I was depressed! The only reason I didn't go back to square one was because it was a long week-end and the travel agent was out.

In the meantime I thought I'd visit the few Brazilian acquaintances still living in Newark. I went to Tia on 112 Ferry Street and found where Cuica was living with Antonieta. I told him I was going back to Brazil and as he was driving his brother Tarciso back to Monticello-NY later on the day, he invited me to go along with them. Cuica convinced me that I should give it a try and work in the 'montains'.

Said 'mountains' is a network of Jewish resort areas in the Catskills and Upstate New York known as the 'Borscht belt' where Brazilians and Latinos found employment as waiters, busboys, chambermaids etc. The summer season was the most profitable and it was already half-way through in mid-July.

There were 5 people in the car: Antonieta & Cuica in front; Tarciso who worked as a busboy and his wife Geralda (she worked as a chambermaid) and myself in the back. It was already dark when we arrived at the Kutscher's Country Club in Monticello-NY. Tarciso talked to some Brazilian fellow called Zezinho who said, yes, they needed someone at the dishwasher and I started washing dishes in the very next morning. That's how my second time around in the USA starts. Cuica & Antonieta slept there over night and drove back to Newark the following morning; I never saw them again. I got stuck in the mountains of New York, far away from 'civilization'. I could hardly hear WABC's signal in Monticello. It was impossible to listen to any FM station out of Gotham City. I knew I was staying in a place I didn't really like but I was thankful I was doing something instead of worrying myself silly.

I was lucky to share the industrial dishwasher with a Brazilian fellow from Rio de Janeiro who had just arrived in the USA. He wouldn't speak any English but I could see he was a nice person... and so we became pals! He had a best friend of his and they stuck together. I noticed they identified themselves as Black and shied away from the Brazilian crowd made up of mostly Mineiro boys from a Brazilian middle class background. Unfortunately I can't remember their names but I know the fellow with the Afro hair stlyle liked soul music. He had a car and liked Major Harris 'Love won't let me wait', Gladys Knight's 'Try to remember/The way we were' and the ever present 'The Hustle'... the discoteque craze was just beginning then.

Paul McCartney had just released 'Venus and Mars' and 'Listen to what the man said' replaced 'Love will keep us together' at # 1. Elton John was king and had the #1 album in the land with 'Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy'.

My two Carioca friends at Kutscher's. My fellow worker at the 'disha' is on the right and his buddy with an Afro is at the wheel.  

Myself having lunch at the side of the dishwahing machine. It felt almost almost like working in a factory doing the same movements morning, noon and night.

Billboard's Top 10 on 26 July 1975

1.  The Hustle - Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony
2.  I'm not in love - 10cc
3.  One of these nights - Eagles
4.  Please Mr. Please - Olivia Newton-John
5.  Listen to what the man said - Paul McCartney & Wings

I worked at the industrial dishwashing machine six days a week. We were allowed one day off a week but never on week-ends. I actually didn't do the worst job which was done by Zezinho. He had to get the bus-boxes that bus-boys brought in and empty them; separate the dishes from soucers and cups and neatly put them in the moving rack that would take them into the machine. The hot water shower would clean the dishes and myself and my Carioca friend would pick them off the hot rack and pile them up. Then we would take those piles and store them in shelves in the kitchen. 

It might be boring but it wasn't actually because we had a lot of 'visitors' near the 'disha'. The silverware were a specially cared for! When it came to the silverware, the waiters themselves would come and wait for them to go through the machine and then take them back to the dining room. During this process the waiters would wait and conversation or practical jokes would arise. Busboys and waiters' favourite subject was always sex. That was the only subject talked in the kitchen. The more one works the more one thinks [and talks] about sex. It might be an escape from drudgery, I guess.
Myself showing off my All Star sneakers in front at Kutschers in Monticello-NY. August 1975. 

I was really surprised when I was told that 'staff' were allowed to use Kutschers swimming pool. I could hardly believe my ears. I come from a country - Brazil - that social segregation is the norm! I couldn't believe that a dishwasher could mingle with the Country Club guests at their swimming pool. As soon as I knew that I made arrangements to go and swim... Me and my Carioca friend were inseparable. We worked together and then went for a swim together. It's amazing that I can't recall his name! He was a tall fellow and very quiet. He didn't talk much... even in Portuguese! One day I was talking to him at the swimming pool and a lady asked me what kind of language we were talking. I told her it was Brazilian-Portuguese and she was really surprised. She said that at first she thought it was French, then she switched to Italian and Spanish...but she never guessed it right.

at Kutscher's swimming pool. Summer 1975.

28 August 1975, a Thursday. Myself in front of Kutschers main hall. The Tshirt depicts a very tall # One and a short # Two who looks up to #1 and says: 'You're big but you're not two!' That's Brazilian humour... I don't know if it translates well into English.

Lonely at the top! Kutscher's swimming pool at 6 PM was deserted;  everybody's preparing to have dinner. We, dishwashers, were the last ones to arrive and the last ones to leave!

Billboard's Top Ten on 30 August 1975

1.  Get down tonight - K.C. & the Sunshine Band
2.  Fallin' in love - Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
3.  Rhinestone cowboy - Glen Campbell
4.  One of these nights - Eagles
5.  How sweet it is to be loved by you - James Taylor
6.  Jive takin' - Bee Gees
7.  At seventeen - Janis Ian
8.  Why can't we be friends? - War
9.  Fight the power - The Isley Brothers
10.  Fame - David Bowie

After 4 weeks at Kutschers I finally took a Short Line bus and went to New York City. The distance between Kutschers and Monticello was a 5 miles, which averages 7 km. I thought it was too much to walk, especially if one is carrying something, so one had to depend on someone with a car to go to Monticello. I wanted so bad to walk in the streets of Manhattan again. I had another reason to go there. Lidia Picolo, a Brazilian girl I had met through Fisk Schools in São Paulo had finished an English as a Foreign Language course in Vermount and was staying in Manhattan for a few days. I knew she was staying at the McAlpin Hotel on Herald Square - Broadway and 34th Street. I was dying to meet Lidia and tell her all about my adventures in Upstate New York but I never got to meet her. She ended up taking her plane back to Brazil and I stayed in the USA.

McAlpin Hotel on Broadway and 34th Street in a much earlier time when the Empire State Building was not even on the boards yet.

Kutschers in the Summer of 1975.

The summer of '75 was rapidly approaching its end. The trees were already becoming golden and red. The Kutschers kitchen steward had promised me I would be working in the dining-room as a bus-boy as soon as the university students would go back to their respective colleges in early September. It reminded me of Rod Stewart's 'Maggie Mae': it's late September and I really should be back at school.

Sullivan County-NY

Labor Day was on the 1st of September in 1975 and it meant the end of summer. We worked our arses off the whole week. By 8 September all the student-waiters and student-busboys had left and only the foreign staff stayed. When Zezinho came into the kitchen holding his bus-boy uniform in his arms and said I had not been chosen to work in the dining room I was incensed. I cursed the steward who failed in his promise. Zezinho, who had worked in the dishwasher for years was gloating! I immediately had a little 'war council' with my Carioca friend  and we decided to get the fuck out of there. He hated being isolated from his brother in Manhattan and had only stayed in the mountains because of myself and his Afro-hair friend. We waited for the end of the week, got our pay, got our few belongings, got a lift in his friend's convertible to Monticello and took a Short Line bus to New York City.  

I don't remember where I stayed in New York. Probably got a room for myself near Penn Station in Newark. Carioca's brother and cousin knew the ropes on how to get employment in the hospitality industry. We were referred to an employment agency in the Harlem. We went to see a Mrs. Hayes who had her office at her own house on 500 140th Street near the corner of Amsterdam Avenue.

140th Street in Harlem.

Mrs. Hayes was an old Black lady who found jobs mostly for Latinos. She knew about undocumented workers and probably had a big network of clients. I went there with Carioca. As he unfortunately didn't speak English, dishwasher was his only possible occupation. I told Mrs. Hayes I wanted to work as a busboy. She said I had to go out and buy two pairs of black pants, two white drip-dry shirts, plus a black bow-tie. Mrs. Hayes kept very busy at her desk using the telephone constantly ringing restaurants and resorts in the Tri-State area.

At Mrs. Hayes' office I met a Japanese Brazilian fellow from São Paulo who was a cook. Cook were very respected people. They were in a league of their own. After a few telephone calls Mrs. Hayes asked me if I had any objection in working in Connecticut. I said I would not. Then she said she would send me to a restaurant in Connecticut with this Nissei fellow. I was happy to go along with him. That was the last time I saw Carioca. He stayed behind because he didn't speak English. I wonder whatever happened to him. I'd be glad to get some news from him... but that's such a long tima ago and I don't even remember his name. For some time I thought his name could be Marcelo, but I'm not sure.

Me and the Nissei young man went to the Bus Terminal on 8th Avenue and took a Greyhound coach to this particular town in Connecticut. Needless to say I can't recall its name. It must have been a posh place. He was accepted as a cook and I was rejected as a busboy which I was glad in a way because it was a small place. I said goodbye to him. I wish I had kept contact with him. Actually I met so many people I wish I had kept in contact but life was so busy then we didn't even have time to write down addresses or telephone numbers.

I came back to New York, going straight back to Mrs. Hayes' office for another try. This time Mrs. Hayes was sending me a little farther afield:  to The Nevele Country Club in Ellenville-NY, in the outskirts of the Catskill, a lovely mountainous region in the State of New York. She gave me a card with the Maitre D' s name: a certain Mr. Irving Gerstein or something. He was bald and looked friendly. He looked at me once and called someone to direct me to my lodgings. I was to share a room with a Brazilian busboy in a former turist lodge that was a staff-housing facility now.

This must have been a Thursday.  I started working on 2nd October 1975, the very next evening at dinner-time with Tchaikowsky,  a short Brazilian busboy from Minas Gerais who was to teach me how to be a sucessfull waiter's help. What a relief! What a beautiful feeling!  I felt vindicated!  I could hardly disguise my joy when I entered Nevele’s dining-room for the first time.  At Kutscher’s I wasn’t even allowed to tread their dining-room.  I belonged in the kitchen, behind the dishwasher.

 The Nevele Country Club was built in a beautiful small valley... this picture is exactly what you saw it 'live'. Such a beautiful place.

Billboard's Top Ten on 27 September 1975

1.  I'm sorry / Calypso - John Denver
2.  Fame - David Bowie
3.  Rhinestone cowboy - Glen Campbell
4.  Run Joey run - David Geddes
5.  Mr. Jaws - Dickie Goodman
6.  Dance with me - Orleans
7.  Wasted days and wasted nights - Freddy Fender
8.  Ballroom blitz - Sweet
9.  Ain't no way to treat a lady - Helen Reddy
10. Feel like makin' love - Bad Company

Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker) and  Carroll O'Connor (Archie Bunker) get their Emmy for 'All in the family'. 

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