Saturday, October 27, 2007

Miller At The Forest Park Overlook

According to the website of the New York Department of Parks & Recreation, there is an historical sign at Forest Park in Queens with Henry Miller's name on it. The sign stands on The Overlook section of the park, at which Henry was employed by the Queens Parks Department in 1927. Here is a direct quote of the text:

Iconoclastic author Henry Miller (1891-1980) - famous for Tropic of Cancer (1934) - was employed by the Queens Parks Department and worked in the Overlook. While employed there he was also a member of the Brooklyn Forest Park Golf Club. Miller got the job through a friend, Jimmy Pasta, in an attempt to make enough money to support his wife, June. He began working as a grave digger, eventually moving up to an office assistant. But June left him for Paris, and on May 21, 1927, he spent a tormented night in the Overlook, typing 32 pages that would serve as the outline for much of his literary work. He eventually went to Paris and continued to support June.

The "Jimmy Pasta" mentioned here is Tony Marella. Starting on page 150 of Nexus, Henry describes his work at this urban park, including the night he wrote his outline for what he called his "Domesday book" (Nexus, p.165): the outline of what was to become The Rosy Crucifixion. According to Jay Martin's Always Merry And Bright (p.131), Henry began his job here in April 1927.

A road through Forest Park in Queens (by Morton Fox on Flickr)

In Book Of Friends (I), Henry also mentions his Park Commission job (although I can't find a direct reference to The Overlook anywhere). Tony Marella, he says, was the secretary to the Park Commissioner. Tony introduced Henry to the Park Commissioner, who put him on the payroll that very day as a grave digger. "The next morning I was up bright and early to tackle my new job. It didn't take me long to catch on. The other workers were friendly and helpful. Two of them were from the old 14th ward. That made things still nicer." (p.76)

This map of Forest Park identifies the location of The Overlook at the northern tip of the park (map from [PDF])

Henry was quickly graduated as Tony's assistant. "Working as Jimmy's assistant I grew more and more familiar with Jimmy's life. Part of his job was to write the political speeches his boss, the Commissioner, had to make. Now and then he would ask my aid in phrasing a sentence." (p.79). The writing of the outline for what was to become The Rosy Crucifixion will come soon as its own post.

Once Henry finished writing his final pages in the early hours of May 22, 1927, he went to sleep on the floor of the Commissioner's office. "Around eight a.m. the first worker arrived. He saw me lying on the rug and thought I was dead, thought I had committed suicide." (p.80).

This (1930) is the Overlook building in which Henry Miller wrote his outline for what was to become The Rosy Crucifixion. Found on the same website is an image of what the building looks like today.

The following day (acc. to Nexus, p. 167), Henry found a crumpled letter in the trashcan of the Commissioner, which would become the inspiration for his "Letter to the Park Commissioner," which was printed under an alias in The Booster in September 1937.

Regarding the Brooklyn Forest Park Golf Club that is referred to on the sign: I don't know much about this. I just can't picture Henry playing golf with the New York elite. Maybe Tony Marella brought him over there one day, hoping to make some connections for him. Accoring to the same website, this was a private clubhouse. "The City of New York rightfully acquired that property in 1924, and the house is now a part of Dry Harbor Playground on the north side of Forest Park." (Oak Ridge in Forest Park). [photo of the clubhouse on Forgotten-NY].

The buidling at The Outlook is still used as an administrative offcice for the Queens Parks Department, and is located at 80-30 Park Lane in what is now technically Kew Gardens, NY. Here's a recent visit to the Overlook.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, between this and the other information you've posted about Henry in NYC, I think it's about time for a little pilgrimage to these sites.

8:21 pm  
Blogger RC said...

You know, Eric, I've been thinking over the idea of organizing some kind of Miller event in New York City, but I've never organized anything like that before.

11:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me, either. But since all these other Miller fans and scholars are in the Midwest or California, perhaps it is left to us.

I was thinking of a personal pilgrimage, of course. But now you have me thinking.

2:28 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Studio M was not in downtown Chicago but near Jackson Park on the south side. Actually walking distance from the University of Chicago and Hyde Park.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There has not bee a Queens Parks Dept. in many years. The five boroughs' departments were consolidated into one NYC Parks Dept., under Mayor LaGuardia, i believe.

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Anonymous viagra online said...

Superb pictures, I went to the park looking for the sign and indeed it exists, at first I was skeptical on going, but at the it was worthed.

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