Thursday, September 20, 2012

Never so kind


Thursday, September 20, 2012

You can’t get through to people no matter how you try. They’ll always think the worst of you, making up the details in their heads to some how turn sincere, honest and kind gestures into something dark, which you could not have imagined thinking up in a million years.
You can never be kind enough to overcome their suspicions, can’t shed light on that dark interior that always suspects the worst of you.
Kindness to them becomes some kind of wedge to get passed defenses they have spent their life time building.
Early on, you might get an invitation inside, but even that is dangerous business, shaping you into that bull which no matter how you turn is bound to crack of piece of china – and in the panic of noise and crashing, you panic and make it worse, getting thrust out never to get trusted again – the victim of their exaggerated expectations that had painted you into some kind of hero, instead of someone ordinary, making you into a monster because you could not possibly deal with the insanity they claim is yours.
As in the old Rolling Stones song, saints are sinners in that world, and the kinder you are the more you seem like a villain, undermining their world view,
You try to help and they think you are saying there are incompetent. You try to make peace, and they think you’re trying to undo them, plotting somehow to take from them something you never wanted in the first place.
You can’t be kind enough or brave enough or truthful enough. You can only try.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Stuck with two Chinese fortune cookies

Friday, September 07, 2012

I had to ask for the Chinese fortune cookies this week, which is why the lady dumped a handful in the bag as I left, sticking me with two fortunes and a choice of which one best suits me.
I’ve always been a lucky cur – growing up with almost no talent as opposed to my best friend who was artist, musician, writer, actor and such, and could never choose between them and so went from one to the other in an endless litany that made him resemble a pin ball bouncing off bumpers but almost no score.
I know someone today just like that – and have become addicted to songs, art and writing, only not to have the person leap off that kick leaving me hanging. I have read one piece of this person’s fiction so many times, I have it nearly memorized and can hum all the tunes.
I grew up imitating other people’s art, getting inside of it, learning how to do what the people I envy do.
I still do this with my reporting, reading what I like, especially reporters I work with, and trying to succeed the way they do. With one reporter I worked with in the early 1990s, I recorded his work so I could listen to it, as if his work was inside my head just as I’ve done for people like Tom Wolf and EB White, thinking that if I hear what they are writing, it gets into my head better, and with headphones, it is almost as if I am walking around inside their heads.
I still read many stories aloud from fellow reporters, drawing odd looks at the Coach House Diner when I do this over breakfast on Saturdays, forcing me to retreat to my car where passers’ by only see my lips moving and think I’m merely crazy.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they say, with me it’s more like adoration. I don’t try to absorb anything unless I truly admire it and want it to become part of me.
But then, I’ve always been a sponge, drawing everything I can inside me, trying to mix it up to come out with some sense of my own.
Having little or no talent growing up, I was forced to work harder at this, often making a fool of myself with my imitations because they started out as crap and over time grew into something meaningful, sometimes even nearly as good as those I admired in the first place.
But giving people too much of a choice is frustrating to people like me, who wait with breathless anticipation for the next song or poem or piece of fiction, only to find the author or singer or poet has moved on.
Now, with two fortune cookies, I’m in a similar dilemma.
Do I follow the first and “Think highly off yourself, for the world takes you at your own estimate,” or do I follow the second’s words of wisdom: “to think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult of all?”
I tend to lean towards the second, and have most of my life, leaving the first for other more notable people, others who need the world to take their estimate, when I know what my worth is already.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gray Day

Monday, September 03, 2012

I had planned a walk to the Hoboken or Weehawken waterfront, but the rain hovers over the landscape with its gray shroud, making the walk seem unlikely.
I can’t ever get enough of the New York Skyline, even though it has changed so drastically from when I was a kid, and could see it in the distance from my third floor bedroom on the highest hill of my home town.
During our trips to The Village, I used to insist on taking one bus over the other at a point in town where the two buses converged, a thing that puzzled my best friend, Frank, because the other bus always got us to the city first.
But the slower bus always came down along the Weehawken ridge over looking the river and the skyline, and like a child rather than the teen I was, I fought to get the window seat so I could gawk.
I still gawk even when I live this close, and take in the city in its various moods, knowing that how it felt I felt, knowing that if a shroud of cloud covered it, I felt that mood as well, making me ache to get there today for the same reason, as if after all this time, the city itself read my moods and clouds itself in the proper garb so as to reflect me when I arrive there.
There is a small park in Jersey City that overlooks the back side of Hoboken, and beyond it, the great Manhattan landscape, the towering manmade cliffs – although from that point the river itself is invisible so that Hoboken seems to run right into Manhattan.
If it rains, I may just go there and stare, and try to sort out which side of the river is which, and how I feel on this gray day.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

End of season

Sept. 2, 2012

I didn't wait to watch the cycle of the washing machines this morning, I just dumped the laundry in and ran, although last week, I got back after the cycle ended and found some indignant lady had complained to the manager that the machine was idle and he yanked my clothing out so she could use the machine.
Time ticks by so quickly it's hard to imagine September is here, and this weekend always marking some new beginning of some new adventure, I'll ill prepared to deal with.
I still listen to the music we recorded so many years ago in a now-long-defunct rock club in Cedar Grove, picturing all of the dance-sweated faces and the celebration of summer's end aglow in their eyes.
I need rituals of passage; and need to remember the faces of the past in order to know where I am now, even if it's only a weekly ritual of writing in my car as the laundry twists and turns, jeans and shirt in their own ritual of tangled limbs.
The Egyptian man at the paper store always greets me with "Coffee, cream, no sugar?" and then slides my copy of The New York Times into a bag and sends me on my way.
There is a kind of religiousness in this, and I would miss the ceremony if it didn't happen, the way I miss most rituals of my life, the way I miss most people who pass through it, regardless of for how long.
This being a longer weekend, I get to wander later, walking along the wide or narrow streets, recalling what it means to be there, often who I walked them with and why. It is a ritual, too, although full of strange spirits that are often troubling.
This is my end of the year -- between now and early October -- before the leaves change, when I reflect most of what the world means and what I can expect. I am always surprised by what happens, because I never expect what does.
I suppose that is a good thing.