Notebook: A Hall Full of Losers

Notebook: A Hall Full of Losers

We met by chance on the subway platform. My friend was on her way to the Cherry Lane “Theatre of the Absurd”: Ionesco’s “The Killer,” if I recall. Would I go along? I declined with thanks; I was on the way to my own “Theater of the Absurd”: The Young Americans for Freedom rally in Madison Square Garden. Its theme: World Liberation from Communism.

I had sent for a ticket three weeks in advance, without result. A series of phone calls still gave no result; finally, I had been instructed over the phone to report to a mysterious booth in a remote part of the hall. There I found my ticket in an envelope, labeled “Mr. Dissent”!

I wandered about before the meeting. First and most striking, not a single Negro; perhaps Moise Tshombe’s presence, announced but not delivered might have attracted a few. Second, a petty sprinkling of those we usually think of as New Yorkers: city folk, Village types, workers, Jews, etc. But mostly family groups from the suburbs of Long Island and New Jersey; a large collection (in groups) of biddies with permanently angry faces; the “jock strap” crowd from the High School Phys. Ed. departments, Madison Square gambling and wrestling touts, the Y’s, etc.; enclaves of cleancut “American” college boys with their college banners. Altogether, a motley crew that never jelled or adhered during the 4½-hour evening.

Why were they here? The banners failed to provide an answer. Nor did the slogans. “Liberate the Liberals”? “Repeal the Income Tax”? “Up Victory, Down Coexistence”? These empty phrases offered no clues to my search for understanding.