Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hold tight!

Cling to the thought that, in God's hands, the dark past is the greatest possession you have...

I suppose there is more than one variation on that.  The trick might be to reach the point, wherever that is, that you don't wake up in the middle of the night with the past sitting on your chest, just looking at you and grinning.  Grinning and drooling and telling you that it's already killed your family in the next room, and everybody you ever cared about even a little, and now it's come for you too.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I hear the doctors have a shot for that now.


Medieval 2

Orcs in Kiev!

The situation in Ukraine is looking more and more like a scene concocted by Peter Jackson.  It's horrible but hard to look away from.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What's love got to do with it?

Everything, Tina. Everything Tina...

Of course...

Happy Birthday, Chan Marshall (Cat Power)

Mysterious ways...

And there are days for grieving...

A lot of them lately, it seems, and some passings do hurt more than others.  I've always hated when people exclaim that this person or that person died too young, and whatnot.  What does that even mean?  Hell, some people take too fucking long to die, don't they?  You're not supposed to say things like that but sure as shit everyone thinks it!

Yet some people die too young.

Yoshi died too young, and His will be done and all that, but He's getting the side-eye today.  If there's any reason for the best of people to get such a short stay on this rock, it eludes me.

This is a "God gets the side-eye day."

I'm angry.

Random memories.  Some of the best memories of my life...

I talked her back all the way across the country from SoCal.  Hours on the phone with her.  Days on the phone with her really, at all hours.  Her laughter like a bell, and highway noise in the background.  We talked about everything.  Music.  Politics.  Our deepest, darkest fears.  New loves.  Loves lost.  Hardship.  Happiness.  All the conversations about real things and real feelings all condensed into this weird little window of time.

I've never been so happy to see anyone as I was when we met again in Grand Central Station, up in the bar on the mezzanine level.  So giddy happy we couldn't speak.  She held my face and smiled.  Just smiled and smiled, her forehead touching mine.  I couldn't catch my breath.  It felt another part of me I wasn't even quite conscious of being separated from knocked into me randomly.

Breathless.

How do you explain these things that are bigger than friendships, but not romantic loves, but still big, big loves?  Better than romantic love, better than... better than things we can apply words to with our monkey brains.  There are no words big enough for some things.  Boxing in love with words is like boxing in God with words.

But then there was that first trip to Virginia right after the surgery and the first round of chemo.  There were no words for that either.  This was not supposed to happen, right?  So we didn't speak about cancer so much at all, but when she woke up and found hair on her pillow, she bundled up her fear in her sheets and nightclothes and laid down beside me, and I wrapped around her praying a foxhole prayer that love could make everything okay.  She wept just a little until she fell asleep, and I prayed more to this Big Thing that I wasn't sure at all if I believed in.

The next morning, when it was clear that her hair had its own ideas, we went down to the mens barber shop.  No words at all were spoken except her very direct command to the barber to take it all off, and she grasped my hand tightly while he went to work.  When he was done she tied a bandana around her head and we got into the car and headed off wig shopping.  We bought brunette and curly and kinky and straight and then blonde and auburn and long and short and then even silver and one in magenta.  We laughed and tried them all on, and promised each other, because I needed as much reassurance as she did at this point, that everything would be okay.

And it was until it wasn't.  After a fierce round of chemo and radiation she was declared in the clear.  Then a couple years later, there was no clarity at all in that clear.  It was back.  It was all over.  The prognosis was less than a year.

She made three, and I believe that she made three was entirely of her own doing, simply driven by positivity and love.  She told me at the beginning of the first round that she would not go out, should it all go very bad... that she would not go out, "like a fucking punk."

And I can't write anymore.  I can't write about the last time I saw her face to face last summer on her "Kiss Farewell Tour," as she called it.  This is a day for grieving.  Not for writing.

I wish I could write more but like God and Love, there are no words big enough for this Grief.  It feels like... an amputation.

i would curse God.  My God.  Your God... all of them.  But I can feel her, and I can feel her holding onto the face and looking directly at me and just saying, "No."

Tears...

Hunter S. Thompson in Photos (his own)


click here for more

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Day for Dreams

PETE FECTEAU

I wasn't going to put up anything to commemorate MLK Jr. today.  It's certainly not a question of disrespect!  In fact, it's more the opposite.  Individual people, and the major media especially, put on Martin Luther King Jr. footage, speeches, speech transcripts and quotes the way well-heeled college co-eds don Che Guevara tee-shirts to go down to Mojito Night at the local lounge.  It's for show.  It's affect.  One more tribute... well... I would rather do something, even if this year circumstance left me housebound.  Tomorrow is just as good.

As for the major media. they've gotten really good and cherry-picking from the MLK Jr. legacy to present a story that suits their collective self-image without challenging their own integral role in what the man worked to end... that is not just racial separatism and inequality, but poverty, rampant militarism, imperialism, etc.

Complicated stuff, kind of like trying to figure out Rubik's Cube... and incidentally, the image above is made of over 4200 Rubik's Cubes.  One man figured out how to make that.  Pretty impressive, right?

I'd be willing to be that the solution to billions of people going to bed hungry is a lot more simple than most people are willing to say.  Probably easier than figuring out Rubik's Cube.  So Pete Fecteau (click his name above for more) did 4200 of them to create something beautiful.  Why do the rest of us find it so taxing to even speak the very obvious answer aloud.

Pharmacy line 9 a.m.

La medicina...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Bringing the masters to life


This really is quite different and stunning and... all that.

It's art, you clowns!

AsLan

Red Flags

A hard drinking life is a beach where the red flags are always flying.  There can be a list of reasons they're up:

Warning:  Strong Undertow
No Lifeguard on Duty
Jellyfish Alert

It always means the same thing though.  Enter at your own risk or better yet, stay the hell out.  Thing is though, you sit at the beach long enough and you're going to get hot enough or bored enough to wade in, even if there's been sharks spotted that day.  That's what drinking is about.  Making shitty decisions.

Red Flag Numero Uno should have been that I was on the train to New Haven to spend the weekend with a woman that I slept with once in a drunken stupor.  You can add a plus sign or a check mark next to that flag because truth be told, I couldn't recall exactly what she looked like beyond the basics.  Female, blonde, more handsome than pretty.  But I couldn't remember if she were tall or short.  If memory served she had an athletic build and she had said over the phone that she worked out all the time.  Okay, I had the basics down.  I knew very little else about her except that she had been married and shared custody of two teenagers.  She taught English literature at an Ivy League School.  She was kind of anti-semitic and that came out when she asked me if I were Jewish in that "you're not Jewish, are you" way before launching into a list of "Jewish" things about her ex-husband that drove her nuts. Yah, add another check next to that red flag.

She was late picking me up from the train station in New Haven.  No problem with that.  It gave me time to do some deep breathing.  What was I doing here?  I had to give that some serious thought.  Wasn't there anybody closer to home?  Actually there was, but that's another story.  I was kind of on the lam from that one.  She looked great though when she came in.  I noticed men looking at her as she crossed through the station towards me.  I liked that.  I definitely liked that.  That, I noticed, even though, and I realized right at that moment, she wasn't the sort I usually notice.  I remembered that when we first met I tried to pick up her married colleague.  How had I forgotten that?

But men looked up from their papers and turned to watch her.  She was tall.  Yes, I remembered that now that I saw her.  She was tall and moved really well and dressed nicely.  I remembered having thought that when we first met too, as well as having thought when we first met that she really wasn't the sort I usually notice.  Conventionally attractive but having never been conventional, really...

She said something about how she couldn't believe she was bringing me right back to her house but it felt like she had known me so long, blah blah.  I believed it at that moment because I wanted to.  I accepted it.  There was that disapproving voice of reason standing by the red flag on the beach but I buried him quickly.

My father was a career bartender.  He told me once that I should always cast a suspicious eye toward anybody who drinks frequently and only drinks white wine.  I thought at the time he meant that it was a sure sign of someone with really bad taste in alcohol.  I only ever drank white wine if it were all that was available, and even then, only by the gallon.  What did I know about wine?  11.5% alcohol.  It took me two bottles to catch a buzz and four to get me where I needed to go.  It began and ended there. I've come to learn since that there is a class of drinkers who stick to white wine, generally in large doses, when they have a vested interest in controlling their intake and their behavior.  It's a maintenance  thing.

Hence Red Flag #2...

Deborah's pantry was stocked with Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio by the case.  I uncorked the first of what was to be many bottles between us, and poured her a glass in a gentlemanly fashion.  In a particularly unladylike fashion she nearly finished her glass before I'd poured my own.

"Sorry, I'm a little nervous," and she shrugged and smiled.

Bullshit.  That's the way she drank.  So that could have been tandem red flags right there, but who was I to judge?  I drank vodka that way.  With club soda.  With tonic and lime.  On the rocks.  Hell, right out of the bottle.  You do what you have to do.  Who's going to say anything?  Not me.  Not I.

Imagine going to the beach and all you're seeing is red flags, and kids getting sucked out by rough currents or drilled by surf or eaten by sharks or whatnot...

And you jump in anyway...

Second fight.  Second fight, second fuck.  It's about the condoms again.  We're both plastered on white wine and wine is a sloppy drunk for sure, and she's all boo hoo hoo because I think she's dirty or something and I don't believe this and that about how it's not like she drags every man she meets right into bed.  I'm lying there torn.  Frustrated.  Exasperated.  Sloppy drunk.  This was a rule.  I'm pretty well convinced that the reason I've made it to a certain age without my dick falling off is that I've stuck to this one rule.  Hell, it's pretty obvious I don't even have any other rules.  Just this one.  No glove - no love.  Why is this even an issue?  You would think she would be happy that I would take the precaution.  Guys argue with women about this stuff.  Men... boys... beg and please and cajole and make promises they really don't intend to keep.  I have one rule, and my one rule hurt her feelings.

Wow!  It's a first,and I'm torn.

It's absolutely killing me that I hurt her feelings and the very possibility... the very idea that she not really really like me is killing me.  Somehow it became entirely possible that I was wrong and that I was being a shitheel, and what the hell.  I pulled her close and comforted her.  I kissed her tears and all over her face and her lips and she boo hoo hooed a bit more, and then smiled just a little too easily but that was lost on me.

And then it was on.

On!  With a capital O.  Like I said.  If you're sitting on the beach, sooner or later you're going to get hot enough or bored enough to go in the water, no matter what.  And the surf was rough.  And maybe I've never been that strong a swimmer, but it was rough.

I mean, but when you're drunk, or a little unhinged anyway, or both, what's better?  There's make-up sex, which is always fun.  Then there is angry sex, which I'll come right out and say is better and in your secret moments I think you'd agree.  But you know what's better than both?

Crazy sex.  It's all that desperation to make the whole world better, with all the anger that you really kind of feel no matter what, and all the unhinged, off-the-wall, what-the-fuck-ness of not being quite right enough to think that maybe sucking someone's finger into your mouth while you're inflagrante delicto and biting it until it bleeds just might be a little weird.  And if you're the one bleeding, not only do you not mind the pain, you think it's kind of hot.  Yah, this is all a flapping, slapping red flag that would tell a normal person that you're in way over your head.

I suppose this sordid tale has gone well beyond the TMI Zone, and it was TMI right then at the time also.  Just too much information to process as it was happening, and no real desire to try.  There was all kind of doubt there nagging away.  The voice of reason had become a chorus too, even before we went the next day to a dinner party at her colleague's home.  A bit early, right?  But I was flattered.  I must be something really to be up there breathing the rarefied air of this higher echelon of academic dipsomaniacs, and that's what they were.  They were already putting it away like cowboys by the time we got there.

The hostess was the wee, curvy brunette that had initially drawn me into this mess back on my home turf.  She was indeed married, as she claimed to have been.  Her husband was a tall, pale man that I might have cast as a Nazi tank commander, were I in the business of casting stereotypes for film in real life instead of just in my head.  I really expected him to have a German accent instead of the sniffy, mid-Atlantic drawl.

"Deborah tells us that you're a writer..."

And my I slowly tuned him out.  It was a dissertation about his time reading poetry in New York City cafes anyway.  Deborah told them that?  Had i told Deborah that?  I might have.  This is where you find out that bullshitting really is counterintuitive.  You have to remember all of it.  I think I had told her that I wrote poetry once, and I had.  That was no lie.  Now though?  Now I sold advertising space and had been doing so for a long time.  I'm pretty sure I was clear on that.  Why had she lied to them?  To build me up?  Was the truth not good enough?  Was I not enough?  What was up with that?  More importantly, how many drinks would it take to wash this red flag back down into the surf?

"Well, Neil... I have to tell you..."  I responded cautiously.  "I'm no Yeats."

I did my best to keep up with the dinner conversation but I was still stewing and distracted.  To be fair, for all my insecurities about keeping up with the academics, her friends were a decent lot and for the most part it was like sitting with any other group of people.  Except that they weren't just any other group of people.  They were really the sort of people I've always felt kind of "less than" around.  Like all they had to do was look and they'd see I grew up in overalls, and that I didn't really know my Derrida from my Lacan.

Oops...

It bears mention that Deborah and I did get pretty well pissed up after dinner.  Everyone did.  I grew increasingly squirrelly and I couldn't wait to get her alone to ask her exactly what she told them about me.  And then maybe figure out it was all a misunderstanding.  I was hoping it was a misunderstanding so that I wouldn't be stuck in New Haven with someone I was angry at, and we could fool around more and everything would be cool.

It bears mention that my insecurities were mostly in check though until a rarefied air academia joke got thrown out into the mix.

"So Derrida and Lacan walk into a bar..."  I swear to God!  You can't make this shit up.  Someone started a joke this way.  I thought for a second that the joke was that someone started a joke this way, but then the horror struck me.  This was real!

The words, "What the fuck? Really?" floated out across the room, and everyone went silent and looked at me.  Consider that moment of dread when you realize after the fact that you've tossed The Holy F-Bomb of Disgust out into a roomful of strangers.

I fucked up.  I laughed and followed it up all faux-jovial with a just kidding, go on!  The room had lost some oxygen though.

On the car back to her place, Deborah apologized for her friends' being too pompous, which would have sufficed, but she added this:

"It's okay, I would have explained it to you afterwards. You don't have to be embarrassed."

The sex that night was lacking in some oxygen too, but we went for it anyway.  We went through the motions.  Up.  Down.  Back.  Forth.  Whatever.  It was like we had to, to convince each other that there was a reason for me being there.  It worked.  The veil of denial was back up before the sun and the ensuing hangovers, mine and  hers.

Then there was brunch.  More wine.  More vodka.  More crazy sex.  More talk about how strange it was that two people can randomly meet and feel so connected right away.  Talk.  Lots of talk.  More talk.  Lots of repetition, punctuated by orgasms.  Moregasms even.  Repetition.  Romance by rote.  If you follow up every statement with an orgasm it becomes true, right?

Right.


You would think I might know by now...

Decades at this business and I've yet to figure out exactly where the threshold lies between "I'm going home with her," and "I don't care if she dies."  Exactly how many drinks between surly barroom, come-on, sexual charm, and "Who gives a fuck?  I'm going to say something so horrible she's not apt to recover from it any time soon."  And the latter for no rhyme nor reason other than it's amusing at the time.  Amusing for me anyway.

It's pretty certain, in retrospect, that things were reaching the take no prisoners stage when The Crazy One surrendered, and I led her back to her hotel under the white flag, and the taxi ride gave me enough respite to regroup.  In fact, pulling Yeats quotes out of the bag of tricks, potentially slick in some cases, shouldn't have worked at all in this case.  Reciting For Anne Gregory by rote, to a blonde natural or otherwise, would ordinarily be cause for instant dismissal.

Never shall a young man
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-coloured
Ramparts at your ear
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.

Who knows?  Maybe she just figured her weekend in The Big Apple was winding down and her opportunities for making it a real party were quickly fading, so if she were going to shag any old asshole, it may as well be a clever one.  Or maybe she was genuinely charmed.  Either way, my rough beast was slouching towards Bethlehem to be born.  She would figure it out eventually.  She was a college professor, ferchrissake!  She taught English!

This adult mating stuff is a funny business under the best of circumstances.  I'm pretty certain that if all my "best" moments were captured on a highlight reel I'd never take my clothes off again, even in private.  Alcohol can't make it much better, no matter how you remember it the next day.  Like, I'd love to believe that our transition from the sitting area to the bed, The Crazy One and I, was a graceful ballet worthy of tourist season at Covent Garden.  My suspicion based on the length of time it took me to untangle my clothes the next morning, and my Fruit of the Looms still being knotted around my ankle, AND the suspect knot on my head by my hairline... was that we looked like two mackerel flopping about on the deck of a pitching trawler in The Perfect Storm.  Rewrite your own history any way you want.  For the duration of the "relationship" that ensued beyond this little tete a tete, I related it as starved passion, and I heard second-hand she recounted it to a friend as one of the most romantic nights of her life.  I was flattered to hear that.  More so than I had any right to be because I knew the truth, but I painted my own lovely picture to others while stapling a WTF label on this file folder.

It would have been too easy for both of us to walk away from that.  Just take it for what it is.  Shits and giggles in the big city.  No big thing because we're both adults, right?

No.

Instead we hunch over a room service breakfast convincing each other, or maybe only half-convincing each other, that something really different and maybe special had just happened.  Clueless as to why we were both so invested in denying that what happened really didn't mean a damn thing.  It just seemed really important that she believe that I wasn't just some cad that takes advantage of drunk women in bars.  Like if I could only make her believe it, then I could believe it too, and maybe it wouldn't be true.  Hell, right up to that moment, I hadn't realized I was so conflicted about being just some cad that takes advantage of drunk women in bars.  No, let's back that up a bit.  I didn't realize then.  That came later.  Right at that moment it was different.

I wanted her to like me.  Really, really like me.  Ugh...

And her role in this?  I can't really speak for her, but she seemed awfully invested in me believing that this wasn't something she did all the time.  In fact, our first fight had been that very night when I insisted on a condom.  She was offended, like I'd held my nose going down on her or something.  So much for red flags, right?

No, walking away would have been to easy.  Or too smart.  Or something.  We exchanged numbers and made arrangements to see each other as soon as possible.  This agreement was punctuated again, and again, and again over the course of the next few days by sexy voicemails and text messages.  There was no lack of doubt on my part either, but there was some investment that I hadn't sorted out yet.  Maybe just the overwhelming need to have something mean something at any cost.

But again, that clarity is all in retrospect.  It made no sense to pursue this beyond the length of time it took for the bump on my head to go down, when I could have still written it off as a serious blow to the head.  A concussion.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Car service, half past midnight... NSFW


There's this thing we do, she and I, for so long now.  This back and forth.  This shuffle.  Always some lead-in off the same conversation, or some variation of the same conversation.  There's this mutual agreement that's not really an agreement at all.  All the agreeable words are spoken, and we nod and say things like well that makes sense, I guess.  It's always something like:

"Bigga...."

That's what she calls me.  Sometimes.  The times when she's got something serious to say but wants to to set a tone.  It's an an affectionate nickname.  A term of endearment.  When we first met she told me she was married.

"Is he bigger than me?"

"No, Big Man...."  And from then on...

So, like this:

"Bigga..."

"Yes, love."

"You know maybe... and I just want to put this in the open.  I think sometimes..."

"Go ahead."

"I think sometimes, Bigga... that we've been doing this for a long, long time."

And that is true.  A very long time.  Off an on now for how long?  Two decades?  More?  So she's looking down absently at her mobile phone.  Hell, we've been meeting like this since beepers!  It's been  that long.

"Ya know, Big Man.  We start we stop.  You meet someone.  I meet someone.  You get single, I get single and then we are back here, ya know.  And I'm just putting it out there that maybe it's time we talk about why we always end up back here.  Or maybe the time you spend with me you should be out looking for the right one.  Maybe I need the right one."

"So... "

"So, I think you an me.  If this was the big one, we would know by now, right?  Maybe we just hold each other back."

And we talk about it a bit and agree that it makes sense that we just foster our friendship.  We say the words that yes it does make sense.  Except it makes no sense at all really because we were never exactly friends and never exactly lovers.  It's just always been something in between and I think we might both agree that it makes perfect sense the way it is.

But we say the words.

And we wait a week or so.

We don't talk for a few days.

Then the phone call.

"Big Man."  She sounds tired, but playful.

"Yes, yes... what's shaking?"

"Big Man.  Just did a double shift and my neck hurts.  Come rub my neck so I can sleep."

"But I thought we agreed..."

"Settle yourself, Bigga.  I just asked you for a neck rub!  Why you have to be such a man?"

So it's half past midnight and again I'm in the back of a black Lincoln Towncar, and the driver up front smells like bus exhaust and cumin.  I'm tired too but that electric hum is there.  Always down the same blocks and past the same brownstones and there's Junior's and we're across Flatbush and man, I've been doing this same trip so long that it used to be kind of sketchy down here but that all just added to it.

And let's make this clear.  This is not at all about sex, and then it's all about sex.  We know each others' bodies so well.  She can bring me right there from across the room with just a look or she turns to the side and crosses one leg over the other.  There is no rush though when you know each other like we do.  She gets the deep massage that I promised and it's as much for me as it is for her.  Her body just kills me, the way this part is attached to that part and the symmetry and the gentle arcs.  There is a bit more of her now than there was then and it's all just more to revel in.

It's winter and the apartment is tropical hot the way it's always been in the winter in her apartment.  She is deep brown and now shiny from the oils and lotions and I'm sweating from the exertion and collapsed beside her.

"We growin' old, Bigga."

And I laugh and I feel old but I look at her and not a wrinkle or a line or a crease.  We're very close and I  smell her hair, soft tight curls and coconut oil and sandalwood.  I've willed that last "serious" conversation out of my head and where my will may fail, she's playing half-absently with that part of me that's rarely ever half-absently responding when she's around.  She sleeps holding it so you never know when she may drift off but the lights are on.  Either way it wouldn't be the first time one of these car rides ended up with us falling asleep together.  She's talking about this and that though.  About her job, and about plans to see her son who's studying down at UWI now.  She's talking and I'm losing my ability to listen while maybe she's not so half-absently doing that any more.

"Bigga"

"Yah, baby."

"Do that good thing you do to me, and don't call me baby unless you want to give me ideas."

And we laugh and she rolls over onto her side and pulls one leg up and guides me in.  Cool and steady and easy, we've been doing this so, so long now, and I can bring her right there any time but there's no rush.  There's no rush at all.  She's wrapped around me and I'm wrapped around her, one arm beneath her and around her shoulders and a hand on her hipbone, and her hand gripping that hand and it's all about the slow rhythm now  One low, slow sigh from her after another and my teeth grazing her shoulder.  Eyes open and I see her eyes are open and I realize she's watching us in the mirror near the bed.  Watching that spot where I'm entering her, and she slides a hand down between her legs and holds me in deep while she rubs at herself with her palm.  When it starts to hit her I can feel it and her eyes close and her head goes back and she locks her lips onto mine but she's still saying something, and the bedframe is shuddering with us while we're doing this thing we've agreed so many times that maybe we shouldn't be doing.

And the lights never shut off until I shut them off on the way out the door.  Yes, we hold each other for a while after.  We kiss.  We laugh.  We touch.  Often we go again.

Yet I never spend the night.  It's always been this unspoken agreement and God knows why we stick to the unspoken agreements and ignore those that are spoken but that's the way it's always been between us.  It could very well be that the balance of this otherwise perfect thing is so delicate that spending the night would tilt the machine. I'd be lying though, if I said I never thought about it on the way home in another black Lincoln Towncar with another driver, and you know what I'm talking about.  Why after all these years have we never talked about how and why we always end up together?  Sometimes it's not even a plan.  We'll just run into each other and so on...  And maybe it's just vanity but I have to believe that after I leave, or even maybe the next day she looks back on the night and gets to thinking.

And at the same time I can't imagine it at all.  Maybe it's perfect the way it is and it's not one of those either or situations.  I don't know.  It just seems to me that there are many different kinds of love, and I certainly do love her, and it's not platonic love, but it's not... what are the other words?  We don't have a lot of literary ammunition in the English language.

So at the end of it all, I'm back home unable to sleep myself, but lying in bed.  I can smell her on me.  On my lips.  On my fingers.  I've got that exquisite lovers ache, but nothing resembling any conventional definition of a lover.  We'll do this a few more times.  Then we'll have that conversation again.  Maybe I'll be the one to start it the next time.  One of us will

Wash, rinse repeat.


A cautionary tale...


A Room In Brooklyn

Edward Hopper

This could have been the view from my place on 10th Street, back in the 90s.  Exactly the same, but if the perspective here was set further to the right, you may see the view of the Williamsburg Bank Clocktower, and the Twin Towers and the Manhattan skyline beyond that.

But from the center of the room, rooftops.  There was even a time, long after Edward Hopper but long before the Park Slope of today, when I could sit right where she is sitting, and watch burglars cat along the rooftops carrying their borrowed things.

Or the NewYears Fireworks from the park...

Pretty much...

Tim Etchells

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Coulrophobia II: The Final Solution

John Brosio: Artnau

The Back Story

Because there's always a back story, and this one has already gone viral.  A group of shuffling geriatrics has decided upon a McDonald's in Flushing as their permanent, daily pigeon stoop.  They shuffle in as the place opens, buy very little, save seats, crowd in, and push business out.  We are, for some reason, supposed to concede some kind of sympathy towards them, because of their age or something of the sort.  It rather begs the question though, at what age does one cross an invisible threshold where being a crank, self-entitled dickhead is okay?

I don't know, maybe Ronald up there has the right idea.  Respect and deference are earned, and it should require more than just living beyond a certain age.  Some of the most horrible, ignorant people I know are over 60.  Hell, look at Congress.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Grown-up

Edna St. Vincent-Millay

These days...

I've been out walking.
I don't do too much talking these days.
These days...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kicking fashion...



I was a child once.

When I was a young boy I thought that the lines on maps, state lines and national borders and such, could be seen from space.  That perhaps when you got to the end of one state there was a wall, or a fence, or just a huge line drawn there.

I was too ashamed to ask what happens when you cross from one state to the next, but I was disappointed when traveling from Maryland to New York that there were only signs, and sometimes nothing at all.

Everything was imaginary.

Romancing the past? Not quite.

I've always had a rather dysfunctional, codependent relationship with my personal history.  Santayana told me that those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, and I heeded that advice, and the past and I, not unlike my marriage, have come to a semi-amicable, arms-length divorce settlement.  She's always close enough that we know where we are if we need to find each other, but there is no longer any temptation.  I'm rarely ensnared in nostalgia.

"Nostalgia is the great constipator," I've proclaimed loudly on many occasion, thinking myself really clever each time it drops smugly from my mouth.

She's always in the neighborhood though, also just like my ex-wife, so we see each other around.  We don't have the convenience of distance, one of those lovely bi-coastal separations.  That can be strange sometimes, but you ignore it, or process it, but either way it's best just to keep it moving.  Trust and believe though, that while it's not a question of regrets or fear, these surprise encounters with my personal history and neighborhood history rarely conjure those warm, fuzzy, sepia-toned images that give some people that far-off, glazed over face.  Sometimes, but rarely.

If I ever really want a guaranteed excursion into the past, and I don't often look for them, all I have to do is stand outside the Chinese liquor store on 5th Avenue.  That's where all the skeletons, many of whom I was certain were long dead and buried, can be found shuffling in and out.  Call it a licensed or unlicensed pharmacy for people who are years overdue for a real sit-down with a real physician.

Along those lines...

Angel was one of the first people I met in Brooklyn when I came here reluctantly in 1992 with a 3 month old Kyle strapped to my chest, and a grudging compromise to getting out of Manhattan and getting more space.  Frankie, the green-eyed Arab at the bodega on the corner connected me with Angel's mother when I asked about local babysitters.  Childcare was the neighborhood cottage industry back before things changed over here and all the white people imported their nannies from Scandinavia, Ireland, or more often Crown Heights.  Carmen was a squat woman with a perpetual smile and a neverending supply of purple stretch pants.  I had seen her about, always with a couple young children who weren't hers, making the rounds of all the corner stores.  I sussed out after a couple weeks that aside from babysitting, she paid her rent as a runner for the local numbers guys.  Hey, no judgement, you do what you do to get by.

Angel was her youngest son, and not a bad sort, but so wrapped up in a very obvious cocaine and alcohol problem -- also no judgment from me there -- you couldn't really set anything down near him and look away.  The lifestyle was already taking its toll.  His teeth were shot and he stooped like an old man.  His name wasn't really Angel.  It was Luis.  Carmen explained one day that after his older brother whose given name was Angel had met an early end, and the details of that changed with every person you spoke with, Luis took the name and insisted that everyone respect that.  Some did, and some didn't.  I thought it best to just run with it.  No sense letting one of the neighborhood "players" cop a resentment so early on.  And it was sad really.  Nobody could agree upon or own up to how Angel Part 1 had died, but whenever his name came up, it was followed by a sorrowful glance and the sign of the cross.  It was as if a saint was stolen from their presence.  Nobody ever held Luis, the "new" Angel, in such regard, or any kind of regard at all, poor bastard.

Angel was shambling out of the Chinese liquor store yesterday as I was going by.  Same old Angel, but  apparently no more or less clean and sober than when I last saw him, what... maybe 10 years ago.  Frankly, he looked like shit.  He was with Roberta, previously Roberto and that's another story, and they were on a mission.  One thing I will say about Angel is that he has always been friendly and kind. Light-fingered but whatever.  I get it.  Time and age and a whopping daily dose of crack and Bacardi are light-fingered too.  He was never "beautiful" as everyone always described his brother, and not a lot has changed.  Maybe 20 lbs. heavier and more slack around the face, corneas bleary and sad-eyed.  I might have mistaken the sore on his mouth as a scorching bit of Simplex 1 but the burns on his fingers suggested the pipe.  Sad, sad, sad...

We exchanged pleasantries and he asked about the boys, which he always does, and he always has very lucid, fond memories of them as little ones.  So this wasn't exactly a General Foods International Coffee moment, but it felt good.

Roberta was another story altogether.  She was ready to move on and shifted impatiently from foot to foot with big queen sighs gasps of frustration.  Seemed more than a booze/crack jones to me and I got irritated.  We were never pals back in the day when she was he, a barrel chested little prick named Roberto.  Always trying to pick a fight with me.  Always some comment, often in under-the-breath Spanglish.  A fat, little coward.  It's been even longer since I'd seen him about.  As a matter of fact, I hadn't seen him since he became she.  And don't get me wrong.  The transgender thing doesn't bother me a bit, but Roberta didn't appear to have changed a bit, aside from the makeup, tits, and rather outdated Joyce DeWitt circa 1977 hairstyle.  Once an asshole, always an asshole.  Usually anyway.  It took me a few minutes to figure it out.  It was stone cold, possessive jealousy.  With all the other changes going on around us here in Park Slope, Luis now Angel, and Roberto now Roberta, has evolved from running buddies to a couple.

That did bother me some.  You meet who you meet in this world, and while Angel was always far from an Angel, I always hoped for the best for him.  There were no expectations really, because after all, how much hope is there for a guy working against all odds to be the other brother whom everyone loved more?  And against decades of addiction, even though I have witnessed miraculous rebirths?  And I guess what I felt when Roberta finally took him by the hand and they shuffled off, was aw man, Jesus Christ, Angel!  You deserve so much more than that!  Or maybe that's what he wants?  Maybe he thinks he can't do any better?  I don't know.  Who am I to judge someone else's love?

I continued on my rainy errands, looking up to say a quick prayer for Angel.  Not one for Roberta, who managed after years to irk me in 3 minutes with her Joyce DeWitt hair and Three's Company attitude. Maybe I should say a prayer for her too, but that's not happening yet.  Can't bring myself to do it.  Yet we're all sick and suffering.  Who knows?

This is how the past works though.  You don't pick and choose when it calls on you.  I think daily about doing a geographic and moving away, but I suspect the past will be there too, wherever I go.  I'm just trying to remember what Santayana said and take care of my own shit.

Selah


Are you 18 or older?


Can you pretend to be over 18 and click a button?  Okay good, because the internet k-hole has been updated.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pea soup...

The overnight fog was slowly giving way to a light drizzle as we made our way back down the hill this morning.  Flocks of grey-green parrots were making their rounds and headed back to the cemetery.  Where are the pigeons?  The Rat Air Corps?  How were they replaced by parrots?  I guess neither is native to New York, but while one population has diminished, the parrots seem to have thrived down here in Greenwood Heights.  Not unlike other changes in the neighborhood really, but this isn't the time  to get into another rant about gentrification.  There is a metaphor in there somewhere though for anyone who cares to pursue it.  Both species were carried here by forces greater than themselves, but forces beyond that decided that it was time for the pigeons to move on.  Folks seem to like the parrots, for now anyway.  I have to admit I feel an identification with the pigeons, and there is an irony there, given how I've always felt about them.  

Blah, blah, blah...

I roused my Nuchternhund from a snorting, muttering slumber and had her out in the fog before the sun was up, leaving a pot of ham hocks on a slow simmer on the stove.  It's soup day.  Yes, the sun is up somewhere up there obscured by 5000 layers of the onion mist and rain.  It was a good morning for a spiritual detox head-clearer, not too cold and very few people out.  It's about 5 miles up the hill and around the park and back, and despite that my ravaged hipjoint was screaming by the end, the other benefits won out.  

There were a few of the few, the faithful, the proud, the fitness juggernauts out around the loop.  I could hardly see them on some stretches of the path, but could hear them coming and passing, wet sneakers squishing and slapping on the pavement.  I was never much of a runner myself, but I definitely understand the Zen aspect of getting out early and doing it.  Jane and I were doing the same thing, if at a slower pace.  

Coming up around by Grand Army Plaza I heard someone coming up from behind at a speed somewhat less than a runner.  I looked over as my fellow traveler came up alongside and saw a graying dreadlock in running gear.  We greeted each other cordially and the glimmer of recognition grew into a broad smiles.  A ghost.  A face from the past, my old friend Cole Stokes, whom I hadn't seen in about a decade.  Cole and I spent a month, back in the mid-90s, on a sequestered jury stint for a murder trial.  It was 10 to 12 hours a day in the jury box and then back to a hotel room near LaGuardia Airport, where we weren't allowed to watch anything on TV but college basketball and cartoons.  We could go down to the gym and work out but interacting with anyone else in the hotel was discouraged.  We got to know each other pretty well.

Cole is a couple years older, the son of Jamaican immigrants, and drove an MTA bus in Queens.  We both had young children at home, a fascination with the machinations of city politics, and a love of basketball.  Beyond that we were as different as night and day.  He was (and still is it seems) a fitness fanatic and I was on the Olympic Drinking Team.  We kept it simple though.  We were stuck with each other.  Neither of us wanted to be there and we were both leery about this "doing your civic duty" business that the other jurors kept repeating, trying to convince themselves that this was all God's work or something.  It was bullshit though, and Cole and I had both sniffed that out.  The one other thing we had in common is that we both figured that since we were stuck, we ought to do the best with it.  Everybody else just wanted to convict as fast as possible and go back to their lives.

That was the biggest factor, this common belief that nobody gets arrested unless they're guilty, so the sooner they get carted off to serve time, the better.  The death penalty had just been reinstated in New York State, and the rest of the crew seemed too disappointed that this wasn't a capital punishment case. It was pretty obvious though that they were going to vote guilty, right from the first day.  It was, to be fair, an particularly ugly case.  A father and son from East Flatbush got into a fight and the father ended up dead on the bathroom floor in a pool of blood and urine.  The crime scene photos were spectacularly horrible.  There were witnesses, and expert witnesses, paramedics and medical examiners and neighbors... weeks of conflicting testimony.  It came down to, in the end, a question of whether or not it was intentional, or just a horrible accident.  The facts, and I still don't know the facts, being that all the details were contested by opposing "experts," were obscured... a fog if you will.  When it came time for deliberation, 9 jurors took about 30 minutes to vote "guilty."  Cole and I, and one other juror, weren't so sure.  Were we just overwhelmed by the enormity of information?  I'll never know.  

The arguments in the jury room went on for two weeks.  Several jurors wavered on their certainty of guilt.  Cole and I posited that while the defendant was probably a scumbag, and really, who gets into a fistfight with a 75 year old man, it may not have been intentional.  Who knows how many other physical altercations these two men had?  Old habits are hard to break and when you're used to settling things a certain way, rules of engagement stick in place.  We were close to being deadlocked, and the decision on guilt had to be unanimous, when the man took a plea deal on criminally negligent homicide.  That made sense.  It turns out he had been out on parole at the time of the fight, and was about to be sentenced on a 20 year bid for mob activity.  That's the way it goes sometimes.  Cole and I joked bitterly that the judge who granted bail was an accomplice to the crime.  The whole jury ordeal, further obscured by time, remains a cloud in my brain.  I never want to sit in judgment again, over another man's fate.  Scarred?  Maybe a bit.  

You get to know another man pretty well though under such circumstance.  Mister Stokes, as I called him, stayed in touch for a long time after we were released from this strange incarceration.  The differences between us, these lifestyle differences, clouded up any opportunity for what you might call a real friendship, but we got together every now and again to watch basketball, or to walk the loop in the park.  It was good to see him this morning and we exchanged numbers and promised to stay in touch.

"You still drinking, Mister Rucker?"

"Nah man.  It got the best of me.  You still running though, I see, Mister Stokes."

"Cha!  Done got the best of me!  Now I walk fast."  And we shared that laugh.  That laugh that comes in place of the mutual recognition of how time tears you up, no matter what you do to defend yourself against age.  

I've got an appointment now to sit and watch the NCAA tournament with an old friend, or really to make a new friend.  A lot changes in the course of a decade.  

So it was back to the Coyote Den and a kitchen fogged and steamed with simmering pork.  Miss Jane keeps walking back into the kitchen to sit and breathe it in, like a ham sauna.  Me?  I'm caught in this foggy reverie.  These early morning walks always seem to turn up ghosts.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

MacGregor Rucker: A Life Story (Readers Digest Version)


Very early on in life I learned that many of the things I was told I definitely shouldn't do, were the most fun and felt the best.  

I was told not to do an awful lot of things.  I turned around and did most of them.  Some of them twice just to make sure.

At first I did them secretly.  

Then I said fuck it, and did most of them right out in the open.  

For better for for worse.

fin


Thanks, I needed to get that out...


Monday, January 06, 2014

What a pickle!


Whether or not you agree with the need for deep cuts in government spending, and what measures to take to address the National Debt, it's hard to disagree that it seems a damn shame that people on any form of public assistance, including Extended Unemployment, are the ones held hostage.  

This strikes very close to home.  No, this strikes directly in my home, and it doesn't feel better to be in good company with millions of other Americans who would just love to have gainful employment in any field right now.

I haven't the energy for a screed, so let's just say we're all in a pickle.  

Friday, January 03, 2014

Bill De Blasio's First Test

Bloomberg left The Outer Boroughs snowed in.  Bill we be judged by this, should the clean-up not go well, despite that it won't be from his own lack of planning.