Saturday, May 31, 2008

Triggers

Memory is a strange beast, like an aloof cat that hides away in the eaves and disappears for a time before popping back into your life, almost magically while you're whiling about the beginning of a new day. You know it's about somewhere because there's the dish, but it's off taking care of it's mysterious business somewhere else, and then on cue, it's there. Feed me. Stroke me a bit. Indulge me. Obsess over me even. You never know what's going to trigger these surprise visits.

Something simple, like the sharp hiss when the can opener penetrates the top of the coffee can... like impaling the gate keeper of the dungeon and he dies with a short gasp. The prisoners rush forth into daylight. That's all it took this morning and I was right back in my mother's kitchen, maybe 6 or 7... and yes I can still remember back that far. The small kitchen with walnut stained cabinets and the scratched ceramic sink and the cat box in the corner. My mother is in her quilted robe and ridiculous fuzzy slippers, looking like she could use a few more hours of sleep, or a vacation, or something.

What's that?
That's air?
Really?
Yes, get your oatmeal.

The smell of coffee, toast... the chill of the morning. It's with me now, weaving about my ankles and jumping into my lap, looking to be petted. I can't really be bothered but it's purring. Perhaps I should. But I don't wish to.

Triggers... I've been tripping one after another since I started thinking about this memoir. Objects, sounds, smells that I would usually take for granted trigger rushes of memory. Not necessarily warm nostalgia either but it's coming home anyway. There are moments over the last month or so when I've wanted to shut the door a bit. Some days this hairy, little bastard will not leave me alone. I should have known it would be like this. Feed it once and it always returns is what they say. Certainly truth in that. Have I mentioned that I'm allergic to cats?

It's been five years since I separated from my wife and moved out. I had packed in an exhausted blur, filling boxes without labeling and moving onto the next. I only recently went through those boxes, exhuming the remains of my former life. In one box--all the paperwork--old bills, resumes, copies of cover letters mailed but never answered, for jobs I'm now happy I didn't get. How desperate was I anyway? Desperate, apparently. Triggers... returning thoughts and emotions. A card from my ex-wife sent at some point months prior to my departure. Renewing vows, pledging love, and words about growing old. The lump in my throat when I read it then... guilt and sadness that I couldn't see until death do us part. The lump now replaced with a tinge of bitterness as I know now she had started the process, taking legal counsel and dallying with bank accounts, quiet cash transfers. It's a short trip to the garbage can where this card will begin its next journey to the landfill where it can rest with the detritus of other lives.

Another card though from my mother, who always remembers birthdays, but this wasn't a birthday card. It was a sympathy card of sorts, reading:

Sometimes life is all sunshine and rainbows.
Other times it's just a steaming pile of crap.
I'm there for you in any case, amigo.

Triggers... the lump returns. So like my mother to find a card like this. This remains my fondest memory of my mother, not one at all given to spontaneous gestures to it means more to me than anything else she's ever said or done. This one goes back into storage in the place that is now far less cluttered and the contents are far more precious and select.

It's only just past 8 a.m. though and I've already spent too much time in my own head. I've gotten things together though. There's a stack of bills on the table with the anemic checkbook awaiting it's monthly blood donation. The garbage is by the door waiting to go outside. The laundry bag is full and waiting. Now if I could just find that fucking cat!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Velvet Goldmine

I
I will be king
And you
You will be queen
Though nothing will
Drive them away
We can beat them
Just for one day
We can be Heroes
Just for one day

It doesn't seem like 10 years since Velvet Goldmine was released but I checked and it is. Ten years. I remember when it was advertised I was so excited... a new film based on... loosely based on... whatever... on David Bowie and Iggy Pop and the glam rock phenomenon. I wanted to dash right out and see it on the biggest screen possible with the biggest sound system possible. I didn't. I missed it. I've not rented it until now and I don't know why. Perhaps I was fearful of having part of my past fed back to me by way of Hollywood. I don't know.

Now I've seen it and I'm not going to review it. I wanted to but I can't. You can get that online anyway, a plot synopsis and whatever. It hardly matters.

The movie isn't really about Bowie or Iggy or anybody in particular. It's about, as I see it anyway, a person's relationship with music, stardom, dreaming, immortality... It's about Heroes, and as the credits were rolling I just wanted to hear the song. It's about something larger than life.

It's just about a dream... it's about a moment in time that you can't really define. You either experienced it or didn't. It's about a moment in time and if you were lucky enough to be there at that moment, very cool... and if not, you might not get it. It's about feeling like an alien and finding one moment in time when you feel right with that.

I don't know if I can explain in such a limited space what pop music has meant in my life so I will defer to the song Heroes... We can beat them, just for one day.

The movie will relate to you or it won't. If it doesn't it isn't the fault of the movie. You just haven't experienced it. If you have, then it's going to be good for you.

Ewan McGregor does a half-credible Iggy, by the way.

What's in a name...

Quite a few babies born in my circles this spring, and I've been pondering names. I've been thinking about how parents come to pick names for children that haven't even been born yet... for people they haven't yet laid eyes on. Some parents wait, but most that I know spend 9 months choosing... A if it's a boy. B if it's a girl.

I was trying to find a line from a poem, and I can't remember the author, but it goes something like, "and to everything its given name," and I came up with a rather interesting article. Apparently, NAMES MEAN EVERYTHING. This piece implies, and I don't know if I fully agree, that a child's given name will shape their life.

I think about my relationship with my own name. My mother dubbed me MacGregor, her maiden name. Her vanity? An attempt to connect me to something bigger? History? A legacy and heritage? But then of course she shortened it to Greg and I've been called mostly Greg my whole life. Until of course in my adult life I grew comfortable with my own name and now it's 50-50. Professionally I am Greg because it's easier to introduce myself and not have to explain the appellation. Yes, it's my mother's maiden name. Yes it's one and the same as Rob Roy MacGregor. No, I look nothing like Liam Neeson, do I?

But certainly the naming of a child and what we're called and what we call ourselves is important, if only because we make it so. No parents I know simply pull a name out of a hat. Every name is imbued with some special meaning. Even made up names I would guess are given because the parents like the intonation and they send their offspring out into the world with this verbal totem before them... this is how people will know my child, and this is how they will be first judged.

An aside: I know a family with a half dozen children--the boys all have Old Testament names and the girls all have names that seem to have been drawn from afternoon soaps. What does that say about the gender dynamic in that household? Anything?

So I wonder about peoples' relationships with their own names, because certainly my own has been complex. There is a history in my name but I don't feel especially connected to it. It was a burden having an odd name as a child. Then it became a conversation piece. Then it became, to me, another thing that set me apart from the pack, and I embraced my name the way I came to embrace the feeling that I never quite fit in.

Names though... I know people who have changed their names. I know a woman that doesn't pronounce her name the way her parents pronounced it. Is that an attempt to distance herself from them in some meaningful way? I know people, mostly men, who have changed their names, first and last, to ethnic spellings... Celtic, Old World etc. I know people who have westernized their names... cultural immigrants these last two groups? One group trying to recapture heritage and legacy and the other group moving towards something new? Away from the past? What does this mean when parents have put so much consideration into choosing and the one who bears the name changes it in any way?

Or does any of this matter at all? Would we be the same people given a different name? Does being named after a dead relative carry with it some bearing on the future? Blessings? Curses? Good luck? Bad luck? My internal jury is out, but I lean towards meaning... potential meaning. Power. And I know there are names that make me cringe... like my middle name, Stuart. I wouldn't want to be a Howard, or a Norman and there is a list of others.

Ah well... for now,
Just MacGregor

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

As it happens...

There are days when this poem by Pablo Neruda, which has eluded me and taken a back seat to his love poems, describes exactly how I feel. Thanks to Bina Shah for sending it to me this. She knows, as those who know me so well do, that some days are just like this. Most are not. I believe that this was written with some degree of self-deprecating humor... and I take it as such, but we all have weary days.

Walking Around

It happens that I am tired of being a man.
It happens that I go into the tailors' shops and the movies
all shrivelled up, impenetrable, like a felt swan
navigating on a water of origin and ash.

The smell of barber shops makes me sob out loud.
I want nothing but the repose either of stones or wool,
I want to see no more establishments, no more gardens,
nor merchandise, nor glasses, nor elevators.

It happens that I am tired of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It happens that I am tired of being a man.

Just the same it would be delicious to scare a notary with a cut lily
or knock a nun stone dead with one blow of an ear.
It would be beautiful
to go through the streets with a green knife
shouting until I died of cold.

I do not want to go on being a root in the dark,
hesitating, stretched out, shivering with dreams,
downwards, in the wet tripe of the earth,
soaking it up and thinking, eating every day.

I do not want to be the inheritor of so many misfortunes.
I do not want to continue as a root and as a tomb,
as a solitary tunnel, as a cellar full of corpses,
stiff with cold, dying with pain.


For this reason Monday burns like oil
at the sight of me arriving with my jail-face
and it howls in passing like a wounded wheel,
and its footsteps towards nightfall are filled with hot blood.


And it shoves me along to certain corners, to damp houses,
to hospitals where the bones come out of the windows,
to certain cobblers' shops smelling of vinegar,
to streets horrendous as crevices.


There are birds the colour of sulphur, and horrible intestines
hanging from the doors of the houses which I hate,
there are forgotten sets of teeth in a coffee-pot,
there are mirrors which should have wept with shame and horror,
there are umbrellas all over the place, and poisons, and navels.


I stride along with calm, with eyes, with shoes,
with fury, with forgetfulness,
I pass, I cross offices and stores full of orthopedic appliances,
and courtyards hung with clothes on wires,
underpants, towels and shirts which weep slow dirty tears.


- Pablo Neruda

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recital



Tonight's special event: The yearly recital... went to see Evan tear through a swinging version of a Sonny Clark tune. He's been studying piano now for half of his life and he's gotten quite good. When he messed up in the middle he improvised his way through it. I didn't notice... he was bummed that he fumbled despite the clueless array of parents and children. A minor triumph in both senses of the word, unless you are one of those that is too hard on yourself.

There's always an opening act in these functions. It takes place in the audience... the performance within the performance. It's one of the events where exes sit with exes, trying their damnedest not to look awkward. Exes with exes. New partners next to exes. In a small group I counted four groups of exes, some newly partnered, some solo and everybody fidgeting. It's what we do. It's how we get along. For the kids.
Yes indeed for the kids. It's hard for me not to notice this one act minimalist staging, even though I am one of the players.

You sit next to your respective exes. You try not to fidget. You hope you don't smell bad. You try to put just enough distance in between you so that people will see that you're good parents and doing right by your children, but not so much as that anybody will think you're a couple. Not that there are a lot of eligible singles at children's music recitals. But you still want people to know. We are divorced. We get along because that's what adults do. The step-parents work at being cordial and not giving the hairy eyeball. Let everybody know that you are the step-parent and give all due respect to the parent. Don't applaud louder than the child's birth mother. Let her fix the bows and ties. It's all natural, isn't it. We're one big happy... something.

Let's dispense with the cynicism though. It was a great little event. I'm proud of my boy. He looks natural in a suit in front of a grand piano. I think sometimes he was born for it. He's got a relationship with it that he often doesn't have with people... with me or his mother. The piano is a friend. They treat each other well.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Look what the New York summer's done

You're in a punk rock tee shirt melting in the sun...

One day I will learn that black shirts and the New York summer sun aren't really a good match. Until then, here I am. There's always vodka & tonic to take the heat off. And of course I'll look cool. And I'll be living by the code.

It took a little while this year for the New York summer sun to make its appearance, a bit later into the spring than usual, but not unwelcome. The cold rain has done nothing at all for my head. The sun came out though yesterday and so did the flesh. Blame it on gas prices. Blame it on high rent. Fewer people going away so Prospect Park was awash in flesh. The lawn in the park looked and smelled like the beach, bbq fires, beer and tanning lotion... frisbees flying and the sick thunk of bats on softballs. I even managed to crack a towering shot of my own and rounded the bases like an old Coupe de Ville, rusted in the back quarter panels and missing on a couple cylinders, for a heroic home run. A home run that the young men applauded and the young women ignored. Here he is, the hero of the current economic crisis, MIDDLE AGED MAN!!! I'm sure my plaid bermuda shorts, the male equivalent of the chastity belt, completed the outfit. It's just a step up from superhero tights (or a step down) but at least I wear my underwear on the inside.

Dreams of long summer holiday weekends of old... trying to fit as much fun into three days as possible before slogging back to the mines, wondering if they'll detect the scent of that last beer, drunk way too late on Monday evening. Sunburn. Suntan. A combination of both and still tired. The people that did go away this weekend though will have gotten their money's worth. This will be a Memorial Day not spent inside a rented beach cottage, trying to figure out how to occupy the kids... trying to decide if it will be worth it to do again on the Fourth of July, before merging back into the expressway traffic and nine to five.

My dream life has been active of late... odd nostalgic dreams, memories of childhood no doubt brought to present by this latest project. Then there's this peculiar recurring dream that starts with golf and ends with mindblowing sex, from which I wake up with my heart racing. But perhaps I share too much. It's a good dream though and nothing strange about it. The caddy isn't involved, or even watching on or giving tips about which club to use.

A dream that really stuck with me: I was on the subway with Evan but we're not sitting together. It's not a train, nor a line I recognize and I'm kind of freaked out that I don't know where we are. The train pulls into a station so I decide that we should get off there to figure out what we're doing. The doors open, and I get off and turn around but no Evan! I grab the doors and muscle them open and shout frantically for my boy but I don't see him anywhere. The door alarm is sounding and people are shouting at me to let them close. Looking around though and still no Evan. Suddenly he emerges from between two fat people, and he's surprised like I've just awakened him. He gathers his things and gets off the train and I let the doors close and the train pulls out. At that moment I realize that I've left my bag inside. Too late. Utterly dismayed I clench my fists in front of me and shout, "My whole life is in that bag. Jesus Christ, I'll never get that back now!!!" But the train is gone.

Now, some dreams are not given to obvious interpretation. Certainly the connection of golf and sex will elude me for some time. This one though with the train, perhaps not so elusive... Does it imply that I've sacrificed my life for my child? That seems almost too obvious and I don't trust the obvious in waking life and certainly not in dreams. Yet what else could it mean? It's not that parents don't often feel this way, even if they're not given to voicing this openly. Sometimes I do feel this way, and then feel guilty. He IS my life, or at least the most rewarding part of it. I guiltily admit though that I often want more and feel that there is no time to pursue more. The more important question is, do I resent it? I think in weak moments I do. Parenting is a trade-off sometimes. You can't have everything you want, unless of course you are born with everything you want, and some people are. I resent those people in weak moments too. It's a regular struggle to let go of that, but it's there. It's there when I'm awake and this dream might suggest that it's there when I'm asleep also.

Things to ponder while I drag myself back out into the sunshine today, in my punk rock tee shirt and plaid bermuda shorts. I think I'll take a vacation from the deep stuff today and stick to sussing out the golf/sex connection. And I'll try to remember the old joke that I can only recall the punchline to: Not even God can hit a one-iron.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

There ain't nothin' short of dyin'

Half as lonesome as the sound, as a sleepin' city sidwalk,
and Sunday mornin' comin' down...

A pinched nerve in my neck, an affliction I've suffered from for 20 years, put the hairy bollocks on my Saturday night plans, and despite having no hangover, there is no way I can hold my head that doesn't hurt. The pain aside, it was a good Saturday night nonetheless. I started reading the most recent Richard Price book, Lush Life. So far, so great... The man's prose blows me away. His facility for real language, in my not-so-humble opinion, is unequaled. Thom Jones once referred to Price as "The American Dostoevsky," in a review of Clockers. I can't disagree. Review forthcoming...

I regret not seeing my friends last night but perhaps it was for the best. When you talk for a living, it's not so bad an idea to take a break from running the mouth... from being social... from being "on."

Evan and I watched Hotel Rwanda last night. It's been on my list for a while and Netflix offers the opportunity to order something up and then wait until you're emotionally staid enough to watch it... no late fees for not being up to something heavy. Now, this isn't exactly the film that you'd think would be good to watch with a 13 year old, but Evan is pretty exceptional... a little old man in a bony, little boy's body. A little old man who has always seemed wise beyond his years, yet still guileless and beautiful.

"How did you feel about the movie, kiddo?"

"It kind of pissed me off. I don't get how the whole world just ignored them. I don't get why nobody helped."

The boy is fully intellectually capable of understanding the intricacy of international politics. He knows that when push comes to shove, it's all about commerce. Enlightened self interest: What's in it for me? It blows me away that he knows so much. He eats up the news, on paper, on television, on the internet. He weighs sides and measures truth and lie. He can smell bullshit a mile off. It's incredible really

Where he lapses, or where I lapse as a parent, is in perspective. How do you reassure a 13 year old, that despite what dominates the news, the overwhelming majority of human beings on this planet are good, decent people... that the people in charge and committing these crimes are there because they are the ones that reach out and grab the power... because most of us just don't have that capacity for the shit that it requires to be in power... that the average person has a conscience. That's not to say that there aren't benevolent people in positions of power here and there, but they seem to be few and far between. These other guys though? They are a special breed, and fortunately far more rare than is immediately apparent. I will have to remind myself to keep hammering this home to Evan and balance my own indignity with liberal doses of good stories. No doubt this practice will keep me level too.

Hotel Rwanda for example... despite all else that was going on and the horror and horrid people portrayed, the film is about a hero. It's about one man who made a very big difference. The film is about good people and NOT about the criminals. The movie is as inspiring and joyful as it is tragic. We have the resources in each of us to be catalysts of good things. My goal is to raise my cynical, little old man to believe that about himself and about other people, even if I have to convince myself first.

And so I've made it to Sunday anyway... It's a hell of a morning. No clouds. Holiday traffic on the expressway. Four dollars a gallon. Twenty or more miles to the gallon, barring the odd, ghastly Hummer or Navigator, spinning rims and loud stereos. The passing cars sound like rolling surf at this hour. I lie on the sofa and close my eyes and reach my nose in the air seeking a hint of sea air. Maybe I should have made plans. Oh wait... I did. This is exactly what I intended to do. Not so bad.

Selah

Saturday, May 24, 2008

One more reason I can't vote for Hillary Clinton

The adage runs: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. I'd like to take that a step farther here and say, just because they're all out to get you, doesn't mean you don't deserve it.

Let me make this clear. I do believe that Bill Clinton was subject to the scrutiny of a vast right wing conspiracy. I do believe that Hillary Clinton carries that burden. I do believe that she has been subject to the scrutiny of being a woman.

That said, there are many reasons to be disgusted by Hillary Clinton. Her political record as the junior senator to New York State is less than unimpressive. She is, at best, a cheap, exploitative opportunist with truly questionable morals. Her foreign policy record is, at best, racist. She's gross.

Her presidential campaign, even if I have to agree that it's disgusting that being a woman should be a hurdle, has been absolutely fucked up.

Keith Olberman hits the nail on the head in this THIS EDITORIAL PIECE. Invoking the Bobby Kennedy assassination should be just the last nail in the coffin of any ill-advised, ill-conceived thought to give her the vote. She cannot be forgiven for this.

If it comes down to a Clinton vs. McCain race, I think I will have to leave the lever in the upright position, and I will ride out the next four years with my seat in the upright position, because either way it's a one way ticket to that same ol' thing.

Saturday In The Park

I think it was the Fourth of July...

Actually it's not quite Memorial Day and I've got one good drunk down for the holiday weekend. Probably another to follow, holiday weekend tradition and all that noise. I got good and liquored up last night with a stranger who said he could make me rich and all I had to do was cut him in on the action. Lowest quotes, best prices and cash down on the bar. No questions asked. All on the up and up... I'm suspicious by nature but after half a dozen cocktails we exchanged cards. So grown up, right? I'll never be able to exchange business cards without feeling like a poseur. Like a kid playing dress up in his dad's suit, all the extra cuffs bunched up around my wrists and ankles... a hat that would slouch down over my eyes if my head wasn't so big to start with. And that's what I've got this morning... a big aching head and suspicion.

The headlines this morning were the body count in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 4500 dead and over 30,000 wounded, more than half the wounded re-deployed, presumably so they could get themselves good and fucked up if they just tried a little harder. Sorry guys, it's not you really. I feel for you but the whole deal is just so ludicrous. What are we fighting for? Really, I need to know. I suspect it has something to do with exchanged business cards and shady side deals. Undeclared dollars for a war with a fancy name. Operation Enduring Freedom or whatever they're calling it now. Perhaps the economy would be better for all of us if all these men and women could come home and work and make declared dollars. And what do we get here? If diesel prices go any higher we'll all be paying 10 bucks for a head of lettuce. Green that will help clear the shit out at least but this has gotten downright weird. Class war... class war... class war... The Dils... semi-obscure punk band reference... Class war.

So I start the holiday weekend with the appropriate hangover and cynicism. I've spent the last month or so digging through the attic in my head, mining for memories and meaning and something coherent and cohesive for this memoir project. I sent a little bit out to some people I know and the feedback was positive and the criticism valuable. "Show, don't tell," from George. "Don't be apologetic and don't editorialize," from Madame Croissant. Both are very valid points, but I do foresee them as hurdles. What else should I be? All apologies. (apologies to Mr. Cobain, and you see there I go again) I don't want to hurt anybody with this project, but how can the truth really hurt anybody. I'm still afraid of hurting people. And in regards to editorializing, I've got a bad habit of editorializing everything I do... words, gestures, thoughts. It's got to be annoying. But the truth is, you've got to show and not tell. Give the reader the benefit of the doubt that they can figure it out on their own. Don't tell them how to feel or what to think or how things should be. This applies equally to writing and to talking. I editorialize everything... my first cup of coffee and why I enjoy it so much... everything right down to my morning dump. Er... apologies for sharing too much.

An email came this week from one of my best friends from high school and it ended with, "If you'd have asked me back in '81 or '82 I'd have said we would have been in touch all these years." I might have said the same thing too, but it would have been half honest at best. I hit the ground running in '79, fresh out of high school and put as much distance between myself and everything familiar as I could. It cost me a lot of beautiful friendships but it had to be done. I was terrified of being stuck where I was, and more afraid of ending up remaining who I was. Which of course I did anyway. We all do, despite how we might attire ourselves in the interim years. Forgive me if that sounds so absolutist but I do believe that we are who we are, with rare exceptions where people have some epiphany and decide it might not be a bad thing if they stop fucking with people. I am the same person, albeit with a bit more experience, as I was in 1979. And I'm comfortable now with who I am. Relatively so, despite the occasional moment of terror... (insert ominous Jaws music here, because every moment and thought requires a soundtrack)

But now it's time to drag my huge head out and take it on errands. Have to go watch the clothes spin. Then at some point I have to pick up my imprisoned dry cleaning. Word is the shop will open today for people to pick up their things. I don't look forward to walking into the shop where I'll have to look at Linda's family... and despite that there are no words to soothe their grief I will feel compelled to say something. I know it will sound false to me, because I really don't know this language... things people say that might be meaningful or comforting.

It's a beautiful, sunny day and there's a cool breeze coming in from the water. We're just close enough here at the top of the Slope that you can pick up the smell of salt in the air if the wind is coming in from the right direction. So perhaps the park, or the farmers' market. I need to be outside. I woke up this morning feeling like I've been in hibernation. It's time to air these things out... these memories and these thoughts.

Peace

Friday, May 23, 2008

The eagle flies on Friday

They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just as bad
They call it stormy Monday, but Tuesday's just as bad
Wednesday's worse, and Thursday's also sad

Yes, the eagle flies on Friday, and Saturday I go out to play
Eagle flies on Friday, and Saturday I go out to play
Sunday I go to church, then I kneel down and pray.

Again... quite a departure from Mother Goose, and not much interpretation necessary. While one may or may not be a metaphor for life, the blues just tells it like it is. And it is Friday. Hump Day Louie used to say, "The eagle shits on Friday." He'd look at his check, purse his lips and inhale whistling, then shake his head and stuff it in his back pocket. Every Friday... and then he'd put on his hat and walk his bandy-legged walk out to the loading platform to finish the week. The eagle is shitting on a lot more people lately, and a nickel won't buy a cup of coffee, or even a stick of gum... and $20 won't feed a family for a week. I don't think that's happened since Louie was a little boy. That was a long time ago.

I didn't really plan this out, because it was just a recommendation, but in keeping with all my wistful, birth-to-death cycle musings, I watched The Savages last night. Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, brother and sister, are forced to decide how their father who is suffering from Parkinson's, will spend his last days. It's a beautiful film... thoughtful, well written... particularly sweet but never given to forced sentiment... never maudlin. I think it's probably easy to slip into a lot of cliche and stereotype. It never happens though. It doesn't mine too deeply into their past, but you get a full picture from the present... how the past informs the present... how we shape our own present, often accidentally. It's such a subtle film in so many ways. There are very understated bits where you see that the son isn't all that different than his father, despite the distance between them. They don't beat you over the head with how both children are still compensating for what their father didn't give. And while it's easy to overlook anyone else in the film with stars of this power, but Philip Bosco was so good as Lenny Savage... not given a lot of lines, but such a powerful entity, mostly silent in his anger and confusion and dementia.

I think with this movie I'm done with the birth-to-death cycle now. It placed me firmly back into the terra firma of my middle-aged life. I'm not old. I'm not young. I'm still trying to figure some things out. I'm still looking closely at myself and deciding how my own past informs my present--and then going further, deciding which parts I should store back in the past, and which I should carry on with. There are assets and there are anchors. I've got a suspicion that by the time I reach the finish line, the goal should be to dispense with all of it... that this is the only way to make it to the end, because even the assets can become anchors if you're going to spend your life second-guessing.

I think, like most people, I'm afraid of getting old. Certainly most of us begin and end our lives in diapers but it's not about that. I'm not afraid of helplessness so much as becoming helpless before I've helped myself. Does that make sense?

So the eagle is flying and shitting today, for what it's worth. That's all that's going on in the meantime. We're headed into Memorial Day weekend--the official start of the summer. I've no grand plans and grand plans often lead to grand disappointments with holiday weekends so I'm not anxious to make plans. I will clean. I will sleep. I will read and write, and yes sir, I will drink. It's a tradition not just for holiday weekends, but for every day the eagle shits. I'm not going to be the one to buck tradition. Many great men and women who came and went before me decided it would be this way. I'm standing on the shoulders of giants so I really have to represent! But for now I've carried on enough and I'm going to get into the shower. That's also a tradition... a commandment... the 11th if you will: Thou shalt not get on the train stinky. I wish more of my fellow New Yorkers were religious in this sense.

Cheers

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thursday's Child Has Far To Go

In a comment on my musings yesterday, Bina referenced the an old Mother Goose rhyme that I hadn't thought of in years:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go.
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child born on the Sabbath Day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay.

I remember hearing it when I was small... it was presented in the context of how it related to the particular day of the week that someone was born. I was born on a Tuesday, if memory serves. Full of grace... I was never able to figure out how it related to me. I was a clumsy child, far from graceful. The only definition of grace for me was that. You were clumsy or graceful. I fell far short of the latter and the nursery rhyme seemed a cruel taunt. When I later became aware of other definitions of grace it was only more confusing.

It was only much further on that I came to see the rhyme as a loose metaphor for the stages of life, within the context of the cycle of birth and death. It makes more sense to me this way. I've been thinking a lot about that cycle lately, as evidenced by my musings over the last few days. I'm not sure yet how much truth it holds, but it could be closer to the truth. Some truth anyway. We can discuss that if you like. I'm open for discussion. Don't ask me yet which day is applicable to the stage of life I've reached at this point. I'm not sure.

It's just Thursday. That's the day of the week right now, and nothing more, and it feels like Friday is a long, long way off. This is not a metaphor. So it's Thursday and I'm still engaged in this magical thinking thing. Looking for signs. When I walked out of the house at 5 a.m. to take the garbage out, because it was a bit high, both in volume and aroma, the street light in front of my house extinguished itself. What could that mean? Faulty wiring. Or a sign. A message. Or something.

There was a Community Board meeting last night that I willfully ignored, the way I'll probably ignore the news today because I'm just not into it. They were to discuss recent events in the neighborhood, crime, murder etc. The report I got back is that they discussed being more watchful and protective of each other. If you see something, say something, as is the MTA mantra lately. It's not a bad idea, but I'd hate to think what kind of paranoid suspicion and accusations this will stir up in an already too wary population. Some of my neighbors have a tendency to watch certain people too closely. It's not pretty.

Leadbelly, by the way, had a somewhat different take on the days of the week rhyme:

On a Monday, I was arrested
On a Tuesday, I was locked up in jail
On a Wednesday, my trial was attested
On a Thursday, nobody would go my bail

Talk about having a bad week. Life in Mississippi was apparently a little different than the world of Mother Goose. Hopefully not so similar to Brooklyn in 2008 though. But one never knows. Its a fearful world and there are a lot of people waiting for bail that just ain't gonna come... Thank you Patriot Act. Camp X-ray here I come. Riker's Island here I come.

Of course I don't have much to worry about in that respect. My biggest worry this week is making it to Friday, which still seems a long way off. Perhaps we'll get an early release tomorrow for good behavior or something. Then we'll head off into the holiday weekend. Memorial Day. Marks the official beginning of summer. Summer, that prolonged version of New Years Eve when you're supposed to do something meaningful and extra fun, because for one reason or another it's significant and you have to behave accordingly. It represents something or another and you have to have fun. I do intend to, the same way I head into any season with good intentions. Life is short and when you're not sure where you stand on the Mother Goose Rhyming Scale it's best to take advantage of time.

Selah

p.s. Somebody pointed out today that I was actually born on a Monday. Fair of face... flattering, but had I known back then it would have seemed a wicked, cruel joke. Egad!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hump Day

"It's hump day," is what old Louie used to say every Wednesday morning when we started work. "You made it over the hump." It would have made more sense at the end of the day, but whatever... Wednesday morning routine. So it's Wednesday morning. The day that I've never heard anybody pronounce the way it's spelled and I think about that every time I hear somebody say Wednesday. I've, at the very least, made it to the hump. There ya go. It's been a long few weeks since we (the crew at work) decided to declare war on the shitty economy by doubling up work efforts. We don't seem to be winning, but that falls right in line with other wars going on lately, despite what the fearless leaders tell us about the wars and the economy alike. Something to think about.

The moon was full and a curious shade of bright orange last night... a color I've never seen it. Thinking about omens... That's the way it is sometimes. I don't think I'm alone in that there are these weird moments when you take everything you've never noticed before as a sign of something. Something... Magical thinking? It's funny how I'll scoff at religion but still find myself able (or vain enough) to half believe that some entity or force gives enough of a shit to send me signs that I'm then supposed to interpret in one way or another. I'm sure there's some old timer somewhere, perhaps a farmer, who has a very specific definition of what a bright orange moon means. I'm not a farmer. No matter how much fertilizer I toss about I'm not a farmer. No crops to keep.

They made an arrest in the murder of my dry cleaner a couple days ago. The cops picked up a 22 year old boy... a young man, I guess even if 22 year olds don't seem all that grown up these days. When I was just sitting waiting for an arrest I thought it would make me feel better. That justice might be served? Something. It didn't. It just feels creepy. Nevermind that I think I know the boy... the young man... that I might know who he is. It made me feel creepy. Maybe connected to all the babies being born--my neighbors, my co-worker, my sister--they all had babies and they've looked at these babies with wonder and pride and endowed them with carefully chosen names. Names that were thought hard on and it was decided that these names were just right for these babies, for whatever reason. Names that signify something and perhaps something that connects them to family, to the past, to the future. There's a glimmering of an idea when you name a baby that it means something... a sign perhaps of who this little wonder will become. Magical thinking.

Somebody sat holding this boy, Jamal Winter, who was arrested this week. They looked down at him and probably spoke his name to him over and over and thought long and hard on what the name meant and who he would become. I can't get my head around that some of these little babies will grow up and do something terrible. Certainly nobody is born evil. I simply don't believe that. It's not that I've never met a little kid and recoiled in dismay at their behavior. How many times have you heard somebody say "that kid is a fucking terror?" I've said it about both my kids. Strong language when you think about it. But something goes wrong with some of these babies somewhere along the way. It has to right? How many of us could ever imagine our own children capable of killing?" But "terror" is pretty strong language and we throw these words out there with a lot less forethought than we use in naming them. Something. Language. Signs. We look for signs and often when we don't see them we create them. Language...

The arrest didn't make me feel better at all. I don't feel that justice will be served. I know that the world is no more or less safe with this boy... this young man... locked up. It makes me wonder how the hell he got from the naming ritual to Rikers Island and the judgment ritual in 22 short years. And hey, some make it to this stage a lot faster and the shrinks and cops and bar stool warmers have all these theories about how it happens, but the fact is, nobody really knows. The shrinks and sociologists tell us there are always signs but I think they might as well be staring up at the moon.

I look at my own children and can't pick out any defining moments that made them who they are. I'm prone to believing that they are exactly who they were born. It often seems so. They got bigger. They learned the language. They fell into their own routines and behaviors, but when I look close they don't seem any different than they were when they first popped up here miraculously into my life. I look back and try to figure out what would have been the signs... the indicators. I can point to family incidents, family events, the walloping case of the flu, the shape of the moon the night they were born... I dig back into family mythology. Nothing. No signs.

So there you go. I have no answers on Wednesday (which I pronounce Whens Day like most people) that I didn't have on Tuesday. I am Curious Orange, like the moon.

Selah,

p.s. The video clip below doesn't work for anybody but hopefully you can see a still of a newborn baby boy with his mouth wide open. He's shouting his new lungs off.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Another Rucker?

Well, not technically a Rucker but my wee sister just gave birth to her 5th--a wee boy--Caleb Matthew etc. (not Rucker)... 9 lbs. 21 inches... Everybody healthy and happy, mother and son. video

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Aerodynamic

G.E. Reutter

My pal George has gone and gotten all arty on us! Check out the photos.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

And life goes on...

for the rest of us... Grim reality is that despite neighborhood murders, cyclones on the other side of the world and war, the rest of us wake up and go about our business.

Speaking of neighborhood murders, the apres-work activities took me last night to a weird little place called The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge in Hells Kitchen. The most distinguished thing about the Wakamba is that it looks suspiciously like a run down version of The Bamboo Lounge, from Good Fellas. It's also famous for being the site of an infamous police shooting a half dozen years ago, but you get the impression that was far from the first crime committed here. The crumbling tiki bar decor breathes the history of Hells Kitchen... ghosts abound under the colored Christmas lights and salsa rhythms from the jukebox... the jukebox probably the last stronghold in the neighborhood of Hector Lavoe and the Fania All-Stars. I love my co-workers, really the nicest crew of folks I've ever worked with, but yesterday's news really left me with a heavy heart and cast a pall over any festivities. I was, and remain, angry and confused.

But life does go on for the rest of us. I wake up this Saturday with the ghost of a hangover that the coffee doesn't seem willing or able to scare off. I'm counting on the aspirin and the sunshine that the weatherman didn't predict. And I'm faced with the totally fucked up thought of what I'll wear for an interview this coming week as all my shirts remain in the locked down cleaner. It will of course eventually re-open for customers to retrieve their stuff but I'm afraid to walk in. Who will be there? What will I say? What was once a refuge of neighborhood cool is now a crime scene... not all that unlike The Distinguished Wakamba Lounge, minus the shoddy decor. So I'm left with these utilitarian thoughts... what about my shirts???

And life goes on in Myanmar and China, for those not exterminated by cruel natural forces. Aid floods in. Soldiers and volunteers dig, rebuild etc. Survivors wonder about their shirts, and their pants and their homes and their relatives and their future.

Life goes on with the elections here in the U.S. despite bitter feuding. John Edwards lent his endorsement to Barack Obama this week and with the potential union support that Edwards brings, I believe the nomination is locked. Edwards has said he won't accept any invitation to be Obama's V.P. but we'll see. It's hard to imagine he would ask Clinton after all the fighting but in the Bizarro World of politics, anything goes. I found myself suddenly excited about the prospect of Obama as president, despite that I've been lukewarm (at best) on him since the beginning. I'm not fond of his healthcare ideas... I'm uncomfortable that he's said next to nothing on the environment. I'm uncomfortable with what appears to me to be his very much pro-big business stances on a lot of things. Perhaps I'm to critical and he's just addressing problems in a utilitarian sense... work with what you've got and go where the most resources are. I don't know.

And in happier news, life does indeed go on for the rest of us. My downstairs neighbors had a wee baby girl 2 weeks ago. I barely noticed she was pregnant until right before the birth. They were hibernating. Yet I came down the stairs one morning and there was a 7 foot tall wooden stork on the stoop announcing the birth. Brooklyn still does things in a big way. Sometimes a bouquet of mylar balloons emblazoned with IT'S A GIRL is just not enough... and I'm not being facetious. Sometimes it just isn't enough. The stork made me happy. The arrival of a beautiful baby girl made me happy. The looks on Louie and Christina's faces were the triumphant announcement of spring that I'd been quietly pleading for.

And maybe the coffee is working after all. The sun is out. It's Saturday.

Selah

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sometimes there are no words...

This is one of those times.

The woman who runs the dry cleaner around the corner from me was found murdered inside her shop this morning.

Now, despite comments from neighbors today which have already made the news, that such horrible violence is unheard of here in the Windsor Terrace/Park Slope area, we all know it's not true. It's a regular occurrence... not in a scary inner city sense, but in a "hey in spite of what you may hear this is still Brooklyn" way. The deep, dark secret of any urban area, no matter what the real estate value, or how much better it may seem than other places... violence is here.

What hurts most is it's often the nicest people that fall victim to it. That's the case here. I can't think of anybody less deserving of this end. I can't think of anybody that I enjoyed seeing more. She was cool. She gave a shit.

Smiling, soft-spoken, friendly... comforting... a good neighbor and just so decent and pleasant in a place where so many people just want to rush you in and out. She remembered my name and that can be taken for granted but it means so much. She remembered my kids from when they came in and regularly asked about them. Stuff like that makes a difference. It wasn't just good business. She cared.

And that's pretty much all I can say. It's too sad for words.

And I'm pissed off beyond words!

Half Nelson



I knew from word of mouth that this was not another feel good movie about a white middle class guy teaching and reaching his students in an inner city school. It certainly isn't Blackboard Jungle or To Sir With Love, and it's not Michelle Pfeiffer playing a tough but fair teacher and "making a difference." Quite the opposite of all that it's really more about not being able to make a difference. It's pretty bleak.

It is though, a great portrayal of an extremely flawed guy (really well acted by Ryan Gosling only just about hanging onto his sanity, bumbling through wicked coke addiction, and still desperately trying to redeem himself by making a difference. It's about despair and hopelessness and clinging tightly to the last shred of hope that one person can make the difference... despite all evidence to the contrary.

It did strike a nerve with me. There are days (and weeks, and months) where it seems that nothing will ever change and the things that suck now will certainly always suck... when I still want to believe that "the machine" can be stopped or at least slowed down. There are moments where through hope or sheer vanity that there is something I can do to be a catalyst for that and perhaps "reach just one."

This isn't the best written film out there. There are a few too many cliches which are probably too hard to avoid. The script is pretty good though and the dialog believable. What really makes it worthwhile though is Ryan Gosling's performance. It's truly stunning. I'm often a little touchy about portrayals of drug addicts and drug addiction. They're often overwrought and grossly inaccurate. With this, whether it's just great acting or great direction or a combination of both, it is spot on.

This doesn't really sound like a ringing endorsement of the film though does it? It's definitely a flawed movie but it really is held up by great acting... all the players are rock solid and to the writers credit, it does avoid some of the most common cliches. The characters are subtle and complex... the mother of the little girl who wants the straight and narrow for her daughter but will still send the mixed message by quietly accepting financial support on the side from the local drug dealer who her son went to jail for. The little girl herself in the throes of a moral quandary... to do the straight and narrow or just accept that things just are what they are and "it's all good" and doesn't matter anyway... the existential questions.

No regrets on my part for Half Nelson. It's well worth the time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Stuff & Nonsense

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears... VU

It's with no Brooklyn hipster nonsense whatsoever that I will say now that I'm more than a little bored with Brooklyn. It really is too easy to rail against gentrification, especially when I've no problem at all stopping on my why home from the new mall for Thai fusion snacks and a fancy martini. I will though. Yes I will say that the whole scene has just become tiresome. Where we once had the world's true melting pot we now have a calculated, deliberate... well, it's the social equivalent of some unlikely "fusion" cuisine... very well presented and while very interesting to look at, very bland and extremely expensive. You pay dearly to sit at this table and partake of this repast. And once ingested, somehow devoid of flavor and hard to digest.

That said, the CELEBRATE BROOKLYN schedule has been released and it does look interesting... if we could just get the neighbors to turn off their cellphones, desist from loudly discussing the price of gas and which $10 bottle of wine is better... and just sit down and experience it all. I'm especially looking forward to Miriam Makeba, the Crooklyn Dodgers reunion and the African Guitar Festival. There was a time when I hit at least one show per weekend... now perhaps a bit more discriminating.

On an entirely different tip, it's with some degree of shame that I admit that I've been avoiding the news... at least taking in less. It's become rather repetitive on the domestic front, particularly politics where they've discussed nothing new since the last national election... but only a little less oppressive than international news where war and natural disaster seem to have cranked up to Formula One speeds. I feel beaten up. That's so lame to say. It's a luxury to be able to ignore the news, and I'm not comfortable doing it, but it's psychic self-preservation. I will catch up... but then again, guilt is a luxury too.

None of this sounds too cheerful does it. I don't feel nearly as glum as this sounds. I'm simply tired. I suspect that this will change as the weekend nears. It's only Tuesday. Only Tuesday.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Random Stuff Generator

So we're nearly two months into this Spring thing that everybody here in Brooklyn seems to love so much. It gives them an excuse to stuff into their lycra and show off the benefits of their gym memberships... or something. You'd think lycra grows on trees, and maybe it does. I can't honestly say I know where it comes from... maybe from those little stick things that the city planted a while back. And maybe some of these folks might have waited a bit longer for the gym results to kick in, but they're putting it out there anyway, bless their hearts. They're out there.

And say what you want about April being the cruelest month but May has already not so kindly feted the arrival of the blooms with at least a few days of cold, hard rain. The wind is throwing the rain so hard against my back windows (no euphemism on the back windows there) that it sounds like an ice storm (but with no key party).

I've always had mixed feelings on spring and summer anyway. The spring in New York City, that is the number of days with truly glorious spring weather, have always been in short supply. Spring is too short, or too cold or too hot or too something. I've accepted this spring also that I've aged myself ass backwards into allergies which incidentally have caused me to snore like wheezing rhino. Apologies to anybody I've driven to quieter corners. You know who you are. Yesterday morning I was awakened after staying up until 2 mapping out a memoir (yes, more on that later) by a flock of rogue geese strafing the rooftop on their way to do whatever it is they do in the park--harass the toddlers offering them bits of stale bread, crap greasy crap on the lawn, sit in green water looking dim and all that. Yes, I'm pissed off at them. I haven't caught up on that sleep.

But I've never been keen on Spring anyway. Spring leads to summer and I've never liked summer all that much at all. That's kind of a long story but it will be in the memoir. I've decided, having spent a good part of my life disguising autobiography loosely in fiction, to just be honest and write about my personal favorite subject. It does come with the encouragement of Madame Croissant, herself a memoirist and a talented writer. "You've got a story to tell. I think it could really touch people." So I gave it some thought, and fueled by recent months of reflection upon my life I figured why not. It might be, if nothing else, it might be a dose of spiritual and emotional Ipecac... cathartic and cleansing. Time shall tell. It's a rather daunting task. My inclination is that every little bit of my life is interesting but of course that's a lot of work and probably far from true anyway (you didn't hear that from me). So at this stage I'm just beating about in the back of the closet in my head and digging about in boxes and such... seeing what jumps out... and what seems that it's making a deliberate attempt to remain in the dust.

In the meantime, to fill in the time when I'm not thinking about myself, which is more time than you may believe, I watched ROMANCE & CIGARETTES, a musical directed by John Turturro and starring James Gandolfini of Sopranos fame, and Susan Sarandon of Susan Sarandon fame... and Kate Winslet as a filthy mouthed homewrecker. It's just such an unlikely thing but I have to say it is one really friggin' clever movie about love, passion, infidelity, sex etc, set against the backdrop of working class Queens... planes taking off and leaving from LaGuardia overhead. This brief plot synopsis is enough to induce rolled eyes and yeah, the story has been told 1000 ways, but you just have to give this one a chance! It's really, really clever and worth the time. It made me bust up laughing anyway. I'm still processing some of it because it does get deep in parts, but I'll probably watch it again tonight and that's rare for me.

So that's my Monday morning... That's all I've got to say. If you want more you'll have to read the book. Yes, I'm really excited about this new project, so please bear with me.

Spring... I just can't wrap my head around this spring thing. It's especially hard when you wake up in the middle of a Nor'easter. Or whatever you call this thing. I have no idea which direction the wind is headed.

Stay dry.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day

It's really easy, given the current (and not particularly new) cultural zeitgeist of cultured and affected cynicism, to approach today with wry comments about Hallmark holidays... or perhaps forced "poignant" statements about mothers and motherhood. Sentimentality doesn't carry a lot of weight these days, so little in fact that even sincere words often evoke rolled eyes and "knowing" smiles. At best... Perhaps we really have reached a point where sentimentality has been devalued against sarcasm like the dollar against the euro... both conditions artificially created if you ask me.

Nobody's asking... and enough of my pontification and vanity. It doesn't really matter if the language of sentiment and emotion has become vaguely foreign... a quaint dialect from our past.

I'm going to forgo my own nagging tendencies to take the low road here and wish all the mothers that might come across this a very happy Mothers Day. I think it's a good opportunity to reflect on our own mothers, and all the other mothers we know, and all those surrogates in various capacities propping us all up with acts of nurturing, kindness, compassion and the like. It's a brief opportunity for the rest of us to reflect upon those who who have been mothered and nurtured and what we've done to repay in kind... And what we've done or not done in our own roles as parents and nurturers and caregivers. We can take a moment to be thankful for all the goodness and understanding that's been bestowed upon us by people who went into a job with no training, and no handbook and no experience... and were often still just struggling to find their own way... and might carry guilt for their shortcomings in these roles, or who may have never felt adequate... those who were just doing the best they could.

For their success, and for their earnest attempts, and the happiness they brought and shared, and for their frustration and sacrifice, and for their forgiving us for the times when we fell short or just didn't know how to appreciate what we were actually getting.

For everything...

Happy Mothers Day

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Advertising execs scalped!

Alternatively titled The New Brazilian

This is an example of progressive thinking.

A fitting end...

For a guy that's worked in print media his whole life...

A burial fit for a king, or at least a PHAROAH...

Or if you're on a budget and looking for a BARGAIN MODEL

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Myanmar

I don't even know how to wrap my brain around DESTRUCTION ON THIS SCALE. Perhaps as a reminder that we are very insignificant in this universe...

I've been blogging a lot less... not much time with this thing called real life yapping about at my heels like a pissed off terrier. Some good, some bad. None nearly as bad as the news posted above so I suppose I could write something about perspective, but that's really rather trite isn't it. 15,000 dead with no good news ahead and hundreds of thousands homeless. It would just be wrong for me to sit here fat and comfy with my morning coffee and pontificate on perspective and how lucky I am and what a blessed existence I lead... especially because I know that by mid-morning I'll be carping about how the trains don't run on time, and the cost of this and that, and how my boss is a asshole. I might even make a crass joke about my boss living next to the wrong ocean. The one that doesn't rise up and swallow entire cities. Is there an ocean big enough to swallow such an asshole? Or would an asshole like that swallow the ocean? See, there I go already.

I'm flying by the seat of my pants here. It's still early and I'm only halfway through the second cup. It doesn't get any better after the second. Just maybe a bit of discretion kicks in with wakefulness. Or not.

So much to write about though, and there will be time for that. It's just been a question of trying to live life a bit more, and think about life a bit less. I'm not good at recording things on the fly though so things might be temporarily lost.

But this Myanmar thing... It's weird to wake up and read that news (though I'm quite sure much more strange to wake up living that news). Where does the rest of the day lead after that. The answer I suppose is very simple. It will lead to the same place it led yesterday... to the end, and to dinner, and to bed and hopefully to a sound sleep, unbroken by thoughts of the day or thoughts of the next day or natural disasters. All of that will come whether or not you want it to. Worry and natural disaster do what they want to do, and we just think we do sometimes.

Selah

Thursday, May 01, 2008

International Workers' Day

Alternate Title: The Real Labor Day

After my last post & any ambiguity contained therein:

International Workers Day

The day the rest of the world calls Labor Day. One item of note--May 1 was the date chosen because it commemorates the anniversary of the Haymarket Massacre, an incident which happened within the United States. The Wiki-entry linked above states that Eisenhower officially went with the September date because he was afraid that the May 1 date could lead to "riots." It is important to note though that it was the police and National Guard who rioted at Haymarket, murdering labor organizers. Ike's official statement was actually that "May Day" was a Communist event... which goes right in line with world events at the time and American paranoia about encroaching socialism.

Despite any misgivings anyone might have about trade unions, it's important to realize what the industrialized world was before unions made it safer and more habitable for the work force. Labor laws were not the brainstorm of enlightened rich people but concessions fought for tooth and nail by men and women who were working under horrific conditions in factories, mines, mills and fields. People around the world died by the tens of thousands for every little bit of protection now taken for granted by so many people. Their efforts improved the lot of the entire work force--not just organized labor. Consider what you may not have now if not for those willing to sacrifice everything.

In any event... everything I've said remains the subject of bitter argument. The truth is the truth though. I'm thankful for organized labor.