Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Blues

So often it rains on Memorial Day, no? It seems that way. Were there still any journals and diaries lying in boxes under my bed or at the back of the closet, there would certainly be inked evidence of dull, dull morning aches, and echoes from Memorial Days past.

Maybe it's best that it rains so people will have time to reflect on what the day is actually about. Beyond the idea of just or unjust wars, there are people just like the rest of us who gave everything, whether or not they had any good feelings about what they were doing or why they were bleeding out their last at the moment and place they were. A moment for them.

A moment for them.

Most of my thoughts this morning, however, are of a more selfish nature, or you could say that they are. On the heels of an ended relationship, they're about love and promises.


So many ideas of what it is and isn't, and there are probably thousands of definitions, each of them as valid as the next. It is what it is, or what the people feeling it for each other want it to be. I'm not going to judge, at least not publicly. I'm only just, at 55, and having mouthed the words too many times to too many people (and should I even judge that?) deciding what it is for me.

In a letter to a sometimes lover and always friend this morning...

She sent me this, about unconditional love, or what many, including myself would define as unconditional love. I wept, and in that grotesque way that I do, made it about myself. Could I live what this man in the article is living? Sometimes the answer might be yes. Sometimes no.

My thoughts, in letter:

The words "no matter what" keep resonating in my head. Lovers say that a lot to each other, or some variation thereof. They're such impractical promises, but are they really that difficult to keep? There is no ready answer for that, is there?

I get into these things with people and there have been times when I've said "no matter what" and couldn't get my head around it. Only a few times could I envision the "no matter what" but there were still always real-life, grown-folk obstacles. Let me change that. There have only been two instances where although the words aren't spoken, because they don't have to be always, that I could envision "no matter what." Moreover I could envision myself keeping the promise, which has always been my biggest obstacle. It's a question of my deepest fears, that I am not worthy to begin with so how can I possibly keep the promise? How can I not disappoint, at some point or another? But two cases where I felt no such fear. I felt good enough. I felt worthy.

That's kind of where my thoughts are this morning. It's about getting beyond feelings of unworthiness so that I can actually love unconditionally, or love despite this fear. Love realistically, and keep the promise.

And that's what I've got this morning.

Still processing, my no matter whats.

That's what I've got, on the day that whether they meant to or not, men and women lived and died in no matter what scenarios.


Monday, May 15, 2017

DUMBO 5-14-17

The world remains atilt. It may be flat or round, or maybe one of my legs is shorter than the other, but...

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Definition of surreal
1: marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; also : unbelievable, fantastic surreal sums of money
2: surrealistic
surrealityplay\(ˌ)sə-rē-ˈa-lə-tē\ noun
surreally adverb

Use a word for years and you're never really sure if you're using it correctly or not.  You're reasonably certain but there's always that element of doubt.  Then some shit happens and you find yourself living it. 

Kind of like this.

I'm sitting in an AA meeting in a church basement and there's a congenial guy sitting up front relating his story, or rather in this case his mother's, as it was his early firsthand experience with alcoholism.  It was a rather uproariously funny, if dark, tale of his mother hallucinating that hundreds of spiders were crawling across the carpet... and even better... his father decided it was best to humor her by pretending to stomp all over the imaginary arachnids.  Even being in the company of someone who can retell a true story like this might be surreal for some, but that's my life.  Hello, welcome.  Won't you come in?

Surreal for me is when he was continuing on with his story of bottoming out in a gay disco in Houston (no pun intended), and a fat motherfucker of a spider strolled out across the church basement floor (I don't go to church but I've been in a shitload of church basements.)

Aaaaah, now fuck me... I've lost it..  

That's what's going through my head.  It was a big, juicy specimen and may or may not have been pregnant, as it's hind quarters, or hind 3-quarters because it's a fucking spider, was dragging.  Spiders give me the willies, by the way and had I been 100% sure it was real I would have gotten up and taken advantage of its disability and killed it.  So in lieu of action I sat and let a deep shudder roll out across my shoulders and down my arms.  I noticed at that point that a few other people saw it too.

Thank you god who lives upstairs, or maybe not.  One person looked doubtful of what they were seeing.  A woman, a friend, looked up at me and nodded and I saw her mouth slowly:

It's reeeeal!

She must've seen my doubt?  Or was she asking?

It took 5 of us looking at the spider and then looking at each other, to decide that we couldn't all be having the same nightmare.

No, nightmares are a solitary experience.  Each one is yours and yours alone.

But this isn't about nightmares.  It's not about dreams.  It's about the waking shit that each person faces in their lives that perhaps confirms that they've indeed been using a word incorrectly or correctly all along.  It's a small consolation in this case, but it is what it is.


Surreal is having a telephone conversation with a fucking wombat at American Airlines about whether or not you could bring the cremated ashes of a loved one on an international flight, and what if any paperwork you might need, and do you check the ashes or carry them aboard with you.

But there's a back-story here.


Jesus fucking Christ, Natalie.  I miss you!


Devon is Natalie's son.  If I'm to be honest, I can't even quite put together how old he is.  I held him when he was a baby.  There were always photos.  The latest school photo, or a candid, seated smiling broadly behind a birthday cake or  a Christmas present.  My relationship with Natalie wasn't like that.

What she and I had was over here, in a corner of each other's lives.

Devon and everything else was over there.

So the living, breathing definition of surreal might be talking to Devon on the telephone a few days after I got the news that she was gone.  It wasn't a call I was expecting, but I knew who it was maybe even as the phone rang at 5:30 in the morning.  The bill collectors and tax vampires only do the 9 to 9, and it was an unfamiliar UK number, so there was no cause to do the "let it ring through and Google after" dance.

"Thrill me."  (It's dickish but old habits die hard.)

"Is this MacGregor?"

"It is."  The lump came up and tears started instantly and I restrained a sob.  Hard enough for the boy, right?  How old could he be?  Early 20s?

"Mum asked that I should call you, when..." and he stumbled and why wouldn't he?  Part of his world had just collapsed and what was left was colliding with another decrepit universe.  "I hope it's not too early."

"No, not at all.  "You've caught me by surprise... I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry..." And what could I possibly say to the boy at this point?

"Mum asked that I should call you.  She said you are her best friend."

Sharp inhale... hold... one... two... three... four... five... exhale as quietly as possible.

"I know that it was more..."


"No, it's quite okay.  Mum and I had no secrets.  You are special to her."

And we talked, Devon and I.  We talked.  We talked for several hours, me and the small boy from the photos.  Me and the baby I held more than two decades earlier.  Me and the child that could have very easily been mine, I learned, because there were moments where we got taken in the moments and left good sense on the floor beneath the birdcage with our clothes.

Me and the young man who knew his mother was coming to England to be near him as she got progressively more sick and the cancer took her bit by bit.  He knew why she was coming.  She knew before she left.  She knew and didn't tell me or anyone else.

Me and the grown-ass man who was the repository... the library for her life story.  That she was one of a half dozen children that grew up one of six children spending most of the year with no shoes while their father drank what he earned, and what their mother earned.  And when he came home drunk he turned his attention to his daughters who were growing up quickly.  That she ran away at 15 with a much older English man who abandoned her in New York when he was forced to flee after being caught with yet another child.  That she lived with a distant aunt and uncle and cleaned their house, and the houses of others, turning all her earnings over to them while she finished school.  The girl who started nursing school and would appear in Murray Hill and Kips Bay boozers to haul out her uncle, an acquaintance of mine from said establishments, and that's how our worlds first came together.

Everything else though remained a mystery to me, until now with this conversation.  Everything was a secret. I asked so many times.  So many times I tried to open her up.  To know her.  To get some sense of who she was and exactly what it was that drew me to her.  And Natalie would just smile and roll over. pressing her body back against mine, and pull my arm over and around her.

"Mum loved you very much, but I think you know..."

"I do... did... shit."

"She never told me so.  That's not her way."  And he laughed a bit.  "I think you know that."

"Your mother was... "  I couldn't finish the sentence.  There was something there that wasn't words but it was bigger than I could have forced from my mouth anyway.

"She wanted me to connect with you.  I'm bringing her back... " He broke up and I knew he was crying.  "We're having her... She's being cremated, and I'm bringing her ashes back with me.  I don't know what they allow.  Customs and all.  Rules... I mean laws."

"Devon, let me see what I can find out."  It was a silly offer in a way.  I am, after all, somewhat of a wreck, and it's pretty certain that this young man, notwithstanding his grief, has inherited his mother's brains and will.  But I will help.  What he needs is an ally, and perhaps the ally he needs is me.

"Bigga... Mum called you Bigga..." and he laughed a bit.  "Mum asked would you come with me when I bring her back home?"

"From England?"

"No, she asked that I take her... her ashes... back to Jamaica."

So, surreal.  So surreal.  See what a comma can do?  So about surreal.

Hours later I'm on the phone with British Customs, and British Airways, and all things British.  No worries there.  They can accommodate everything.  It's not a body (and I welled up every time they used the word.)  It's not actual remains.  Travel with a death certificate just in case.  No worries at all.  That I was having this conversation seem so... surreal.  That I'm talking about a... a lover...  in the context of ashes and a ceramic pot.



So surreal.

American Airlines was another story altogether.  It bears mention that I've never flown American without some mysterious delay.  They say weather, but Google says there isn't a cloud in the entire fucking Western Hemisphere.  That's another story too.  The guy on the customer service line is the bad combination of dim and stubborn.  He doesn't know.

And he's reluctant to find someone who does, so he's talking.

"You're going to have to check the body."

"There is no body."

"I'm sorry.  You said someone died."

"It's cremated remains... ashes... in a sealed jar."

"Oh, I'm not sure."

"Can you pass me on to someone who might know?"

"You can't bring that on a plane."

"People transport remains all the time."

"I'm sorry, Sir."

"Wait.  Please.  Can you find someone I can talk to who knows?"

"You can't bring that on a plane."

"It's not a 'that.'  It's the cremated remains of a person, who if you don't mind, meant a lot to me."

"I'm sorry for your loss.  Who was it?"

"Oh Christ!  It doesn't matter!  I... just need you to find someone who can tell me how I can get the bod... the urn from New York, to Kingston!  Can you get a supervisor?"

"Will the fit in the overhead or under the seat?"

"Oh fucking hell..."

Had he been in front of me, and not some undetermined distance away beyond a telephone line, I would have plowed him into the earth with my hands.

"You have to call Customs, Sir."

"They told me to call the carrier."

"Sorry, Sir."


Writing teachers told me that sometimes stories write themselves.  That events drive the narrative, beginning, middle and end.  Or that sometimes I might be stuck for an ending, and a new element is added, thereby completing it.  Telling it.

Natalie said the same.  She also , said, when I took her to JFK, to forget about her story and our story, and tell my own.

"Seeyum ting!"  we would joke when we were together, and we would laugh.  There will  be one last ride though.  Me, Devon... and whatever fits in the overhead or under the seat.  Fuck me, I'm crying again.


In the Hopper

Hotel by the Railroad 1952

Thursday, May 11, 2017

An idea that resembles me

I've never entirely believed that anyone actually loved me, but rather loved an idea that resembles me.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


A broken heart will heal.
It will.
I am living proof.
Walking around with a chest full
Of shattered coronary pottery
Pieced together
Resealed with gold
The way the Japanese do pottery.
A missing piece in mine though
A hole
A piece I had out on loan.
To keep her safe when she flew
A piece of my clay pot
That belonged to her anyway.
That she carried with her.
The way everyone carries something
This one will not heal.
It can't.
There is no other exact fit
For that one little piece
That we chiseled out together.
She took a turn
And I took a turn and I took a turn.
And she took the last as someone has to.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Tower D

I lived in a tall building, just once for a year, on the 11th floor.  I spent most of the year looking out the window and people started asking me if there was something wrong.  They asked stupid things like did I think about jumping.  I wanted to answer, no motherfucker, I grew up next to the ground, like a hamster, and it amazed me that people could live and breathe and eat and fuck and shit so far away from the dirt they sprung from.

Usually I just answered no.

I really didn't think they would get it, and I didn't want to expose myself as a hick.  You can't really hide who you are though, can you?  It's going to come out one way or another.