Saturday, August 25, 2012

The unsaved

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I didn’t smell gun powder, just the usual traffic fumes.
Yet it felt more than a little strange walking through streets where gun violence is almost unheard of, and the greatest danger to life and limb is being trampled to death by rude foreign tourists seeking to take a picture in front The Empire State Building or Rockefeller Center.
I didn’t even see too many police – only the usual suspects, one Jewish guy with thick black rimmed glasses learning against the railing of some high powered office tower slightly uptown from where the shooting occurred. But the news reeled off over us and around us, spilling out the details of why this garment designer decided to shoot a fellow worker – almost a classic story of desperation, unemployed, and desperate for someone to blame, and so blaming some poor fool who still has a job.
All the newscasters kept going on about how unusual the shooting was for that part of the city, as if local government had zones for certain categories of crimes – pick pockets and hustlers allowed here, prostitutes and such there, and gun violence some place else.
I recalled a junkie once trying to mug me only a few blocks from where this shooting took place. I was a messenger then, and always on the streets, always a potential victim – although rarely actually one. My best friend seemed to dominate that market, once getting mugged in the Port Authority bathroom, once even in his own building, and another time going around the block from his apartment on East 5th Street to mine on East 6th. I mostly had trouble with the macho types, the bikers who liked to browbeat me – one hitting me with chains because I refused to be browbeaten and gave them the finger.
Junkies were no match for that, and this one was more pathetic than most, desperate for his fix, barely able to hold the knife so it was no problem taking it away from him. He nearly cried when I did.
And as I walked yesterday uptown to the museum, thinking of the poor fool with a gun desperately looking for someone to blame, I thought of that poor junkie, knowing that his life had likely ended not long after my encounter with him, and that my passing through his life had only humiliated him more, not helped him.
Others like him passed through my life, too, some I professed to love and tried to rescue, but could not. And walking that street, thinking of the gun man and his victim, I understood how hard it is to save someone, and how stupid it is to try, and yet, if people don’t bother, if all we have are packs of tourists running over people in the street, then there is nothing to live for.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Friday, August 24, 2012

Coney Island was a disappointment after such a long train ride to get there, although on Mondays many of its attractions were closed. I got the same feeling I had went I went back to Atlantic City in 1995 and found the wrecking ball leveling everything I thought of as valuable, and building mockery in its place. My visit to Coney Island came the same day Mayor Bloomberg suggested gambling might be allowed there as a way to boost the local economy – even though he fundamentally disapproved of the vice.
While there is beauty to be found even in the most desolate of places, such as with the fisherman who kissed the fish he caught before tossing it back into the waves, and the other black fishermen who insisted on keeping the pier free of trash, Coney Island seemed empty to me – especially after my April visit to Seaside Heights, which even at that early time, seemed filled with life. I went back Wednesday to take another look, and realized that it remained what it always had been, a haven for teens who needed to see and be seen, before they moved into the broader world, beach bum men with muscles and tans, striding along the boardwalk trying to impress people other than themselves, and pre-season high school football teams there to get united before they hit the grid iron.

Both places seemed remarkably lonely, as did the ruins of the East Village I visited in between, the gutted fish of what had once been the center of counter culture, now devoid of meaning as counter culture invaded every other town like the extended waves of a nuclear blast, leaving lives in ruins, and people confused as to what roles they need to play in a world that no longer had room for them.
This last was particularly evident when I visited Liberty State Park last night and saw the rich racing their sail boats near Ellis Island, while I dodged bicycles on the walkway – the old symbol of American immigration locked to pedestrian traffic so that people wishing to visit their glorious past had to pay for the privilege.
This tourist vision of the world I took this week made me realize that everything has become a tourist destination, specialized for people who aren’t like me at all. My visit to Woodstock in April was far different from those I took in the 1990s, when there was still life there among the natives, and the aging hippies were still respected, instead of looked on as a kind of aging beach bum going through the motions and seeking attention.
We walk in a limbo of time when changing generations means changing visions for the world – and for the first time I truly understand the frustration my father’s generation had with life, the survivors of the Good War forced to deal with the rising tide of the British Invasion, our bulk pushing them out of the places where they felt most comfortable, where they once belonged, just as we baby boomers are being pushed out.
Tonight, I return to New York, to a museum of art that is no longer modern, seeking images that I can relate to, cling to, finding immorality within their frames.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Not a devious guy

Aug. 22, 2012

I'm always getting blamed for things I didn't do or accused of not doing what I was supposed to. When I try to make peace, people think I'm warmongering, when I wage war, they don't take me seriously.
Lately, I'm being accused of things I couldn't possibly have done, staring at people in the hall or trying to take something they struggled hard to get.
People tend to read in me what they want to see, thinking I think like they do, like I want something they have, or want to wreck their golden opportunities, when I really want to live and let live, and maybe get some laughs along the way.
I hate being lied to, or manipulated, although I'm perfectly willing to go along with folks as long as I'm not the butt end of the joke.
Yet, I haven't laughed in a long time over any of this, and feel really badly about being so misunderstood -- so misunderstood, people want to destroy me.\
Fortunately, I really haven't done anything worth being hated for.
Unfortunately, that doesn't stop people from hating me, it just frustrates me to think that even when I make myself scarce, I still get blamed for stuff I didn't do, or I'm not clever enough to have thought up in the first place.
I'm not a devious guy

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fortune cookie reading

If you are never scared, embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take chances.

Face facts with dignity.

A learning experience

Friday, August 17, 2012

All summers pass too quickly. But it is difficult to believe 40 years have passed since that summer when my world changed, my ex-wife split for Pennsylvania, as did all the women in our lives all at once, me, Pauly, Hank, Garrick, suffering the same heart ache at the same time, forced to spend time in each other’s company – sharing each other’s misery, searching for land where we might build a new life in upstate New York.
That pain never goes away, but it fades, and other memories creep in, filling in the holes left in our lives so that after so much time that summer seemed magical, because we all did things we needed to do to survive.
I still have the tape of music we recorded for Pauly’s girl, who had gone to the West Coast, and we sat around singing sad songs with the hope he could get her back, I guess believing that if he succeeded maybe the rest of us could, when we all knew down deep we could not, and that somehow we were actually singing a dirge for a dying life, and a birthing song for a new life, as we came out of the cocoon of our illusions, and grew up a little.
After 40 years, you would think that it becomes easier to grow up, or older, or to understand the process better, so that we can get on with out lives without going through the same drama.
Oddly enough, it only took ten years for my ex-wife to accept me as her friend, and for me to understand the change in me that this required, learning that sometimes I can actually be on the right side of an issue and that someone can depend on me for something other than trouble.
I don’t know how the rest of my friends fared in this regard. Hank died in 1995, having never again seen the girl who had abandoned him in 1972, a horrible conclusion, something unresolved. Garrick saw his, but never resolved it either, bitter over it for decades, before something died inside of him. As for Pauly, I don’t think anything ever fazed him, even then. I never saw him cry, the way I saw the others do.
I’m the lucky one. Life came around to greet me, after I thought I could not resolve it.
And here, 40 years later, I can look back on the summer of 72 and think of it as a learning experience.

Monday, August 6, 2012

An exclusive club of one

Monday, August 06, 2012

Nothing is ever as bad as you think it is at first.
My best friend used to lecture me on global warming back in the 1970s when he had plans to move to the top of the mountain where we might be safe.
No mountain is high enough when it comes to some disasters and no cave deep enough when you want to hide.
I rarely do either, run away or hide, but often taunt my aggressors when I think I’m right.
I like forcing other people to limit, especially when they like to hide behind things.
It’s a flaw in me, I know, but often makes other people takes risks they wouldn’t otherwise – like the imaginary three way conversation I had recently when someone pretended to be three different people in order not to have to take the blame for threatening me.
“You’d better…” the phrase always goes, and it always sets me off with “oh yeah!” even when it’s not in my best interest to do so.
But having a conversation with a person pretending to be three different people allows me to see aspects of multiple personalities that aren’t always evident in so called normal conversations: the ruthless, uncompromising persona that actually makes the threat, the logical philosophical person – who I called mother – who tries to tell me I’m crazy (I guess because I don’t speak back as three people) and the aloof figure I call father, who like God warns me that he will keep his eye on me.
My old professors of psychology pointed out that when someone says “not” in a declaration, it usually means the opposite. So when I get the phrase “he or she” is not alone, it means just that, explaining why the person needs to be three people because he or she can’t rely on the real people to stand up and be counted.
All this said, I always take threats seriously, even when I tend to taunt the person who makes them.
People who threaten are often very scared, and need to impose some kind of control over a situation.
It’s sad, and it’s comforting to know that life may slip through our fingers like sand, but I’m not the only one who feels that way, and I’m less alone in the world than the people who claim they aren’t.
In the end, all people have a right to form their own exclusive club, even if the only membership is made up of the imaginary people they create in order to feel less alone and more powerful than they are.
Me?  I’m a club of one – but I have a lot of associate members to keep me company.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The cycles of life – well, almost

Sunday, August 05, 2012

            I take my laundry up to the top of the hill, one of a number of places called Bubbles, which I always thought of as funny.
            It’s nice to get back to routine, to think only of how everything will come out in the wash, whether the ink stain on the back pocket of my pants will fade, letting me wear them without shame.
            The heat gets to me so I stay in the car, sipping water, and foolishly coffee, to wait out the cycles of the machines – trying not to think too much about the cycles of life, or anything too serious.
            Sometimes the only thing I want to think about is the thing that matters least, having the least impact, not global warming or nuclear extinction, or any other brand of extinction I might create for myself.
            I just want the car air conditioner to work, and the coffee to taste like coffee, a dryer to be ready when the wash cycle is done so I don’t have to wait in the heat for the next stage.
            All changes in life are accompanied with pain, even the small ones, and sometimes it’s better not to think too much about them, to let them just happen, to hope that everything you need falls into place so that you don’t have to wait in heat.
            Sometimes, all you really want or need is the routine – never having to think too much about any thing except whether you have the right change for the dryer or enough gas in the car to keep the air conditioning running until this cycle ends and you can get onto the next one unscathed.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Swimming in quick sand

Friday, August 03, 2012

You can’t force someone to be your friend.
The more you try, the more they hate you, especially when they dislike you to start with.
In all this, there was never any middle ground, always all or nothing, and I wanted to stand some place in this that wasn’t so deep that I always felt like I was over my head, drowning all the time.
In the end, as the poem goes, I was swimming in quicksand, where there is never any middle ground, just oblivious.
I don’t even know why all this bothers me so much, why I need or desire someone else’s good opinion and friendship that I would risk my life to retain it, clinging to sheds of hope that it might be possible long after it clearly wasn’t.
People like me never get the message until someone puts a gun to my head and says: “Get it now?”
A friend asked how I feel now that I have capitulated. I said, like a wind up alarm clock that had been over wound for so long I’m not unsprung.
The inevitable, of course, is the long humbled walk away, back bend, utterly defeated, knowing that I will always have this gun to my head, always give in to whatever demand is made, losing dignity as well as the illusion of friendship.