Thursday, October 31, 2013

This odd time and place

December 12, 1981

We had our first snow last night.
A half inch of white covered the ground when I stepped out my door.
I thanked God or whoever was up there listening for how lucky I was to have put on snow tires.
I woke woozy from a mere three hours sleep and a pot hangover. And I couldn’t find the brush for my windshield. So I had to wipe away the snow with my gloved hand.
Passaic’s streets for some reason are vacant at night – even Fridays – and so this scene felt a little eerie, snow given a blue cast from the street lamps.
This was my two-day per week ritual of survival. But I can’t get used to working nights on the weekend after sleeping nights the other five days of the week.
Still it keeps me fed and a roof over my head.
Somehow, this year I’m in the mood for Christmas. Talking to Louise and my daughter after not having heard anything from them in years will do that.
Through the haze of thinning clouds, I saw the moon – an omen to go with the lingering voice of my ex-wife still lingering in my head.
Her voice has grown warmer more friendly than the remote voice I heard when we first talked again over the summer.
This strange phenomena coming as if the changing of seasons had soften her, while making the world colder and harder with the coming of winter.
The snow reminds me of Boulder and the piles of it I saw that December when I climbed off the bus and walked to her door, my hair still short from my stint in the army, and kept warm by the black leather motorcycle jacket I had purchased in LA.
It is almost as if I have gone back in time and have been given a second chance.
But this is Passaic and the winter is coming over me and my world, this crumbling ghetto in which I have taken up residence. My friends, who used to live here with me are all gone, seeking softer and warmer places in the suburbs while I cling to this way of life, knowing that I cannot survive the remoteness of that suburban world, and need to feel the cold snow stinging my fingers as I wipe it away from my windshield.
I envy Pauly as he sit with Jane, the love of his life, in front of a fire place on a mountain in Towaco, staring deeply into the flames as if looking at the future.
Or Garrick living not far from him at the edge of an ice-covered lake.
We used to get drunk on nights like this and stare out the window at the snow, bemoaning lost loves and remote futures, wondering if we will ever find the dreams we dreamt when we first started here, artist, musician writer.
I even miss the band and the crazy hours that I put in, not just lugging equipment, but picking up the pieces of the broken-hearted groupies the band left a trail over behind them, trying to keep them from going over an edge from which they might never return.
But by the time I climbed into the car and let it warm up and began to drive up the snow covered street, I’d forgotten all that, thinking only of the blue glow and the snow, and this sense of loneliness I still felt and probably would always feel, floating in this odd time and place forever.

Another cycle ends

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I want to think this is all about Halloween.
But it’s not.
This time of year is always that time of year when great changes happen, changes that seem bad at first, but over the test of time, show that they are positive.
Freud, of course, calls this an anniversary syndrome, and claims that people either cause events to happen at particular times to fit particular moments in their lives, or attribute events to these moments that do not otherwise apply.
I prefer the spiritual interpretation.
Tomorrow is All Souls Day, and so traditionally, today is the day when all hell breaks loose, and those wild spirits get to express themselves before they are forced back under wraps.
The last few years we have seen physical ramifications of this such as that freak snow storm in 2011 to last year’s Sandy.
But every year something dramatic happens inside or outside, and this year perhaps is a combination of both.
In some ways, the unstable forces of the world clash as part of some need to find a more stable existence, and so it is true now.
We come to the end of one cycle and the start of another, not an annual cycle that concludes something that might have started earlier in the year, but something that overlaps other cycles and takes time to resolve.
This year some of the dark forces of my world are coming to reckoning. Like all battles between good and evil, right and wrong, the conquest of the dark also removes something good from the world, the price the world pays for having bourn evil in the first place. So we watch innocence lured into darkness, who must become the sacrificial lambs for salvation.
It is only those who are not so innocent that survive, the ones who have already felt the stain of the darkness, yet have not completely succumbed.
The innocent and the guilty suffer the most – those foolish enough to believe totally in the spells cast over them, and those who do the casting.
The world is a purer place afterwards, yet at a significant cost, leaving a trail of innocent blood.
I feel sorry for those suckered into the depths even though they went there willingly, because they had become true believers or people willing to suspend their disbelief in order to obtain some sensual reward. Yet even when they are betrayed, even when it becomes clear that the spell-casters have merely used their innocence as shield for their own greed, they continue to believe. No shock can shake off the spell and so they are consumed.
In some ways, I even feel sorry for the spell-casters, who themselves are deceived, believing they will find some deserved reward as a result of their evil actions, when deep down they know they deceive themselves.
Levels of culpability vary, of course, some are more evil than others, some motivations are more vicious, or self-serving.
But in this cycle, I see only the most pathetic of players, insiders who all deceive themselves, living on the edge of something that cannot do anything other than crumble under their feet and cast them to doom.
They are blinded by their own ambitions, all of them seeking something they don’t honestly deserve – like those weaving, speeding cars on the Turnpike that rush ahead of everybody else, so talentless in their abilities that they can end no place else but in a car crash from which they will be lucky to survive.
Some of the players in this cycle will survive, and move on to new schemes, spinning new spells – leaving behind a landscape littered with victims or co-conspirators, who either fell for or hooked into a scheme that could not possibly work in the first place.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paterson, the novel (part I -- Boys will be boys)

Paterson, the novel (link to main menu)

This is the first part of a novel -- a frame tale. Most of the characters are composite, although the early childhood stuff is pretty autobiographical -- this is the early childhood section. If someone wanted to know why life was like as a kid, this reflects a small chunk of it.
Like most of my writing, the rest of the novel is hand written, and needs to be transcribed, which I'll so over the next few weeks.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hell night

Oct. 30, 1985

It’s Goosey Night.
At least that’s what they call it in these parts. In California they didn’t know what I meant by it. In Portland (OR) they called it Mischief Night.
The name changes, too, from neighborhood to neighborhood, although the weapons of youth are pretty much the same: eggs, water balloons, wax and soap.
Goosey Night is a more recent tradition, an effort to undo the civilizing of what essentially has become a commercial holiday.
The Eve of Halloween had no purpose originally.
It was Halloween that held the mischief in the past, an evening of ghosts, witches and spirits s3et loose before the greater religious holiday of All Souls Day locked them all back up in hell.
It was a wildcat night, when people could let go of their inhabitations.
In other religions it was even crazier involving various degrees of violence and more than a little sex.
By as time passed and society got greedy, the holiday became commercial and people had to create a new hell night just to let out the frustration.
Thus we got Goosey Night.
I remember very early during my young days at the Crooks Avenue house when I took a can of shoe polish to my uncle’s Valliant, and recall his rage the next morning although he never learned it was me that performed the evil act.
In later years, I teamed up with neighborhood kids for water balloon fights, stealing eggs out of my grandmother’s refrigerator when the supermarket refused to sell us any.
Soap and shaving cream were frequent tools used to scrawl obscene messages on every window, sometimes alluding to something dark and spiritual.
It was only later that we began to fear the darkness and the street gangs that terrorized our neighborhood, white gangs from the Clifton side doing battle with black gangs from Paterson, both still too young to own guns so settled for a variety of fire works.
Violence spread beyond that single night. So that soon gangs terrorized trick-or-treaters on the holiday itself, holding them up for the candy they collected. The newspapers on All Souls Day reported each incident as if major crimes.
There were other more disturbing reports of evil things done to treats by unscrupulous households, such as razors in apples and rat poison in candy.
By 1967, we no longer battled over candy, as race riots spilled into the night time and everybody lived in fear and candy gatherers on the white side of town often were guarded over by police cars, leaving white and black gangs to victimize the unprotected black kids still innocently collecting candy on the Paterson side.
By that time, Dave and I saw ourselves as Batman and Robin (both arguing over which of us was which) and swept through neighborhoods on rebuilt bicycles throwing ash cans at the street gangs who then chased us (often in cars) instead of the trick-or-treaters.

They never caught us. But they came close a few times. And I had no doubt of what they would have done if they had.

A sunny Sunday in Jersey City

Monday, October 28, 2013

The black boy – maybe five or six – pointed to the candy rack this Sunday morning when I came in for my papers and baking soda for my weekly chore of laundry. He was having a friendly dispute over a package of Gummy Bears with a white man in his early 30s with closed cropped hair, but not like that of the military. He might have been a Peace Corps worker or a member of some other liberal establishment, or merely an average American who had adopted the boy I soon learned had just arrived in the United States from Ethiopia.
The two had come to the small market to purchase coffee, soda and an apple juice – this last for the boy.
“We have apple juice at home,” the man informed me. “But he wants store bought.”
The dispute was over whether or not Gummy Bears were candy. The boy tried to argue they were not; the man insisted they were, and had told the boy prior to this he would not buy the boy candy.
While the man waited to pay for his purchases, the boy went outside and played peek a boo thought the glass door.
“When he was over there he didn’t even have shoes that matched,” the man said. “They just picked shoes from a pile taking any two that fit.”
Over here, the boy seemed surprised when the man offered him new shoes.
The boy was wearing sneakers today.

“But he’s all American now,” the man said, and laughed, and carried out his items to where the boy waited, and like the opening scenes of the old TV show “Courtship of Eddie’s Father,” the two made their way down the sidewalk on this cool day in Jersey City, the boy laughing at he skipped at the man’s side, the man walking and looking down, both pausing at the traffic light for the light change for them to cross, with me looking over at them in amazement and renewed hope.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

All we have to do is wait


Sunday, October 27, 2013

I always come here, this alcove at the end of the promenade, long passed the place where people usually come. It’s the hard core survivors that come this far south, to where the new cape gives way to the old cape, and where the beach turns into preserve. In past years, I walked here from the motel and then out onto the beach for the long walk to the light house – just barely visible this time against the gray sky.
This is a fisherman’s place, and a place for lovers, young and old, with a few surfers catching waves where the land tucks in, and where the rocks jut out, a dance of water that always sends mists into this place and creates a sense of permanent rain.
Even on warms days – which is not – people wear hooded garments and sweaters in order to keep out the chill that mist brings, lovers holding each other against the threat of the world beyond, this sea that once contained so many enemies, but which have since been vanquished, the Nazi subs waiting for the ships of cargo to pass out of the mouth of the river, and before that the Northern ships keeping cargo from the south – this is a place below the Mason-Dixon line after all, and before that British ships seeking to quell a revolution many residents here opposed.

Now, we just watch the waves for dolphins and wait for the sunset that on this day won’t come, but on some days comes with such magnificence, we all bear witness to it the way we do the birth of truth or right or justice. But on dull days, when the chill of injustice washes up with all the other propaganda, we just huddle and endure, waiting for that day when the clouds break and the sun shines through again, bringing us warmth and comfort as reward for our patience. We all know all we have to do is wait.

Never forgets

November 27, 1988

Rosy always comes in for coffee and donuts, every morning after a hard night selling cocaine out of the near empty bar she claimed Babe Ruth used to hang out in on the Garfield side of the Wall Street Bridge.
She was a young girl back then, before all the bullshit happened, and she got caught up in stuff she doesn’t talk a lot about, all those years trying to reinvent herself so she can go on with life the way she feels most comfortable doing.
But she always comes back to the Babe Ruth stories, as if that was the last moment when she felt honest about herself, before something snapped inside of her, and she woke up a different person.

She talks about how men from New York used to come to the bar to haul inebriated Babe down the bar’s narrow back stairs, wiping mustard and lipstick off his face in the hopes they could sober him up enough to play the game, and how small she felt in the shadow of a truly great man, a 15-year-old girl in love with a man who would not remember her later, even sober, even the next time he came to the bar and repeated the pre-game warm up, always asking what her name was, and immediately forgetting it. But she never forgot him, not one detail, even in the lonely mornings like this, hutched over the cup of Dunkin Donut counter – staring at me through the glass where I roll out the dough for the next batch of donuts. She never forgets.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Keeping the windows closed

Friday, October 25, 2013

I woke up to the cold this morning -- the first real cold of the season, made worse by my refusing to close the windows yet. I am reluctant to admit defeat about anything, even to surrender to a change of season. Although when I surrender, I surrender completely.
The brisk wakening, however, brought back images of life in my cold water flat in Passaic, and the struggle for survival each change of season actually meant. My friends – a pack of artists who accidently created an artist’s colony in the middle of the ghetto by moving into one small apartment complex – all resisted turning on the heat until the last possible moment. Heat was a gas burner installed on the side of a very old fashioned stove, the bill for which sometimes equaled the monthly rent. We set artificial dates when we would turn on the heat as our official change of season, doing all we could to stay warm until that date popped up. Some of us, even resisted turning the heat on after that, though the threat of frostbite generally forced our capitulation.
Because I earned the least and because I am stubborn to a fault, I generally was last to give in.
But it was a good fight to me, one that made sense, refusing to let greedy utilities further impoverish honest hard-working poor people or artists.
This tendency spilled over into every part of my life, often to my own detriment, my refusing to let powerful entities push people around, or to let exploiters get away with their schemes. I was always known for throwing a monkey wrench into the works, making sure that if the small guy couldn’t win, neither did the oppressor.
Right and wrong, fair and unfair, matter because civilization is based on the belief that everybody gets their turn.
Marxism and communism weren’t destroyed by military might. They were eroded from within as capitalism’s worst features of cheating sank into the leadership, and exploited the worst feature of humanity: this need for some people to get ahead over other people by any means possible.
It is one thing to earn a place in society, it is another to climb over the backs of others to get there.
I’ve spent my life making certain that exploiters don’t win.
Of course, some battles are unwinnable. And some methods of conflict turn good guys into bad guys.
That’s the problem with terrorists, whether they be the Weather Underground I knew intimately in my younger days, or the groups that rise up now: Once they adopt evil methods, they become evil, regardless of how noble their cause.
So I might freeze to death because I won’t turn on the heat, and may become a permanent outsider. But as another Marx, Groucho, once pointed out (probably paraphrasing Mark Twain), I wouldn’t belong to any group that would have me as a member – meaning, I would lose my dignity and self-respect doing what it would be necessary to find acceptance.
Being part of an in group matters far less to be than being able to live inside myself.

Of course, I might make matters a little better if I closed the windows.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sometimes a play is just a play

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Each year when we go to Cape May, we take in a play – sometimes, two.
This year, we only had time to go to one and we barely managed to get tickets for it, having to dodge rain drops the whole way from the mall booth on Washington Street to the under the stairway portable office of the Cap May Stage ticket person and her laptop.
We got balcony seats – a new feature added this year from a past when the old church near the town square had mere folding chairs.
I had my doubts, and we actually had to climb a winding set of stairs to get to the seats, only to suffer the embarrassment of sitting in the wrong seats at first with a rail blocking part of the view, and then finding our right seats to the top.
Cape May Stage always puts on a provocative play – most years tied to upcoming Halloween, and if you stretch this idea a little, this play was about the horrors of the holocaust and inner mind.
Called “Freud’s Last Session,” the play pitting Christianity against the more modern religion of Freud (since largely abandoned for yet even more outrageous interpretations of psychological faith0. In this, a writer who had once been an advocate of Freud meets up with the good doctor in a discussion about god, faith and reality.
Armed with JRR Tolkien, C.S, Lewis, Chesterton and the other intellectuals Christians have come to rely as a defense against agonistics, the writer did verbal battle for the length of the two hour play and ultimately came to a draw, agreeing to disagree about the existence of God and faith, while radio reports announced the first steps into World War II and the horrors it would bring to the world.
A brilliant, thought-provoking play, it delved less into the nature of evil (and those who embrace such as their religion) as it did into the concept of belief itself, whether we are the result of trauma suffered in birth and early years or the product of creation out of which we are destined by god and other powers to become something else. Why do we have free will to choose between good and evil? (Freud does not believe in free will, saying we are doomed from the start to whatever forces shaped us and no matter how much we struggle, we cannot deviate. Is it any wonder we seek god’s help with a philosophy so pessimistic.)
Freud at this point in his life is dying of cancer (but he still smokes cigars) and is looking for something at the end of his life that his lack of faith cannot give him.
He knows he will soon die, and has invited the writer to talk in this final session that sometimes winds up with the writer on the couch, and talk about their father’s and their frustrations, and how each struggled to find personal identity as a result of this complex.
Both men suffered with the same demons and the questions as to what would happen when doom comes either in the shape of a Nazi bomb, or the out of control cancer cells. One sought god after serious discussions with members of the Inklings – a group of Christian writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien who were seeking to create a modern Christian tale that would help define their faith.
In the end, death is always a question, and the pursuit of good or evil, sometimes is defined by what we believe happens when the dark cloud descends. But morality – and Freud is moral – is about personal integrity, belief that good is worth pursing for its own sake, not because of fear.
In the end, both men are true believers in some higher power, one believing this comes from heaven, while the other from the self that does battle with its own demons and comes out on the right side long before death.
But these two men still struggle and become friends at the end, not because they agree, but because they are truth seekers, people who are engaged in the same pursuit of something that has value beyond mere personal salvation, although one sees salvation as possible while other sees only death as a final curtain to a life long play he is forced to live.

The play left me thoughtful for the walk back to the beach and to the club, where I drenched myself in rum and pop music, and still, even with guitars screaming and singers prompting the audience to party, I thought of that moment on the stage when the writer and Freud both huddled in fear at the sound of air raid sirens. Even when you are certain of what comes later, you still fear coming to it in the end.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cold rain a-comin.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

After days of perfect weather, we expect rain – cold, brutal, bone-chilling rain – that alters the seasons and puts us firmly in Autumn.
This year’s quick jaunt to Cape May left no real time to adjust, and it is difficult for me to remember the cheerful chill standing on the beach pre-dawn Saturday with the kiss of a gentler rain on my cheeks.
I have photographs of that moment, and the long walk I took along the lip of waves from the point near the tip of the cape to where the promenade starts.
Being alone there is a kind of meditation I don’t even need my usual yoga routine to reach the way I do in the city.
It just washes over me.
Later with the rain still heavy in the air that day, we drove to the old motel, parked and made our way down the promenade as part of the old ritual of walking from motel to George’s for breakfast – passed the parade of Victorian houses, and the handful of shops that mark the beach side.
George’s today isn’t the George’s from twenty something years ago. His kids run it now, and though the food is just as good, we’ve changed. I eat less heavily, so the traditional multi-cheese omelet and home fries and toast did not sit as well with me, and took significant walking off, but warned me against it the next day when I had oatmeal instead.
Sunlight came out for a brief stroll back up to the car along the beach, and some of our old friends, sandpipers and other birds greeted us, although we did not see dolphins until our last stroll on the beach on Sunday.
Then, rain came again, and we took refuge under awnings along the Washington Street Mall as we tried to buy tickets for the play later that night.
We used to go to two plays each time we came south, but shorter trips forced us to choose between two companies. The one company this year moved out of the old church and too far up the parkway for us to walk to, so we settled for the play in town.
But the usual ticket booth on the mall did not have any left and we had to go to the theater’s office – which turned out to be a lady with a computer underneath a set of stairs in a coffee house at the other end of the mall. Here, I drank coffee while we went through the ritual of getting seats reserved, and then back out into the rain we went, wandering through drenched streets, searching for activities we could do indoors.
There was a confusing bit in the local magazine about the history of a local hotel, but when we went to the hotel, we found that the exhibit was being held in the coach house of another prominent historic house. Such a shame since I wanted to see the interior of the hotel.
We walked to the other house, and read about the history, and then returned exhausted to the motel, choosing to sleep out the rain rather than get wet by it, at least until supper time, and dinner at Casey’s – again forced to stall for time between the early bird special and curtain call at the theater – after which we went back out to listen to a local band.
But that rain is different from the rain that peppers the City of Bayonne as I speak, a kinder rain that did not bring about the dramatic changes that this one will.
Last year this time, we were already getting warnings about an even more terrible storm, the aftermath of which we still get rumblings of. That year, 2012, was a tough year with a tough ending, we seem to have avoided this year. Perhaps some inner part of me has made peace with the world and no longer fears the terrible wrath of mother nature as we move from one season to the next. Rains like today bring sadness, but not despair, bring the idea of change without the fear that we cannot recover from it.
Sometimes, on days like this with rains like these, all we need to do is button up a little tighter and make the best of it we can, knowing that this is far less furious than what we have already endured.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pop Rock in Cape May

Oct. 13, 2013

I didn’t quite catch the name of the band on Friday night – alien something.
A four-piece, all male,  mid-20s band with two acoustic guitars that played Nirvana-like rock, nothing too heavy, nothing very loud, and mostly nothing anybody could dance to.
This bar as opposed to the bar up the street catered to an older crowd, but even this music as a little too laid back for them, and a few couples left to seek out the younger place so they could twist a little before the night was over or before this band could put us all to sleep.
In this bar, no dance means low interest.
We thought about stopping over in the other place after the first set, but after a long days journey into night through rain, thunder and Atlantic City-bound madmen on the road, we needed no boring band to close our eyes after two drinks.
Last night, after the play, we went back to the same bar. This time, they had a party band called Doc Hollywood that more than made up to the audience for the sleepy hollow-like impact of the previous night’s band

Doc Hollywood was an over populated band with drummer, bass, two electric guitars and two singers – a mal and female who switched off with each song in strung-together sets of non-stop pop songs.  Even if the song was not pop when broadcast on radio or mp3, this band made it sound pop, with all but the drummer and one guitars hopping up and down like agitated energizer bunnies to mimic or perhaps excite the audience into doing the same, forcing us all into a party mood even if that wasn’t the mood we wanted.
I thought better of the girl singer than others did. She had a good voice and provided good harmonies when she was not singing lead.
But the male singer was a real performer, straight out of the days or razzmatazz, a grinning, exciting character who swayed on the microphone stand like a sea captain on the deck of a stormy ship. He got people to respond better than she did, even if she was better to look at.
The band was very tight, managing to keep the beat even when they bobbed up and down.
This was largely due to the skills of the second and clearly more serious guitarist, who did all his gymnastics with his guitar not his feet or body.

I would have stayed on for a second set, but again, it had been a long day dodging rain drops and doing the usual Cape May routine, and so after a few drinks and a lot of music, we made our way back to the motel at the other end of town.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day of the Dolphins

Saturday, October 19, 2013

They don’t always wait until the last moment to arrive.
Last year, when we came to Cape May, they popped up out of nowhere, and kept showing up, until I regained faith I had lost over the previous warm months.
They are angels to me, and signs of good things to come.
Those years when I fail to see them or the rare years when I don’t come at all, things darken and get dim, and I struggle to find balance in the world.
I blame eye troubles and other problems that followed my failing to come here in 2011.
Last year I came here to heal and renew, and these angels appeared out of the warm waves in twos and threes, after I had pleaded with the sea for signs (something I always do when I am desperate for answers and remember other instances in moments like this when I came to the sea and the sea responded.)
Some years we rise up out of the depths of depression, clinging to the slippery fins that carry us back into light. Other years, we just want those angels to verify that we are on the right path or to give us additional strength to carry on what we have already begun.
Some years, we look for verification and power.
Most years when I see them they are playful or engaged. Last year, they rose and fell in batches of two or three, coming like the waves, one after another, until they faded away.
This year with the rain and my own shortened stay I did not see them the first night or even the second day, and so felt a bit desperate when I took the last walk along the beach before preparing to make my way north again.
The walk up the beach from breakfast at George’s is always a last tradition, a farewell to this live giving place for another year, and before the plunge into autumn and the troubled winter that follows.
I don’t come here in Spring because this is not a spring place for me. Woodstock is, Kingston is, where budding trees greet me.
This is a place of autumn and changing leaves during the drive home, and this last moment of sea song – and dolphins.

And so when I went to turn back to the promenade and I glanced back out at the waves, I saw the first fin, not close to shore, but recognizable, and then I saw another, and then another, and then scores more, and then hundreds more, as a whole flotilla of fins and arched backs made their way from the north to the south, heading to warmer water no doubt, feeding off the fish that the storm stirred up for two days, giving me faith in numbers I had never seen before, that there is strength in me to carry on for another year, and that the renewal of last year is the renewal of this year, and that when I come back next year, these gentle angels will be waiting with the same sense of wonder.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

First night in Cape May

October 12, 2013

The rain came in waves just after we left Jersey City – we crossing band after band on the way south, traffic so thick we seemed in a perpetual traffic jam like those near where we lived.
So travel was slow and uncomfortable until we reached Toms River after which the tension eased and we traveled a bit faster.
Yet, it took much longer than usual to get to Cape May, and even though we left early, we did not arrive until after dark, and to still more rain.
As with last year, we stayed at a cheaper hotel on Pittsburgh Avenue, as the rain came and went then came again.
We drove to the beach and took dinner at Carey’s, too late for the early bird special.
The food was serviceable, if not cheap: breaded fish with French fries and salad, better than bar food which the place also offered.
We then tried to take our usual stroll down the promenade – an arrival ritual that we did every year on the first night – but wind and thunder and cascading rain – and finally bolts of lightning arrived before we even got to the arcade, a half way point for our stroll. This forced us to take cover under the awning of the old beach-side theater, a building straight out of American Graffiti, which has awaited demolition for several years.
Across the street, a state senator rushed out to his SVU from a political function held at the ostentatious convention center – a new and improved performance facility locals had installed over the bones of a much simpler facility that had been condemned a few years earlier. Whether this event was to promote the election of Steve Lonegan to the U.S. Senate, I could not tell. The sign above the hall simply said, “Congratulations Jack.”
Two old ladies with wheeled charts rushed out of the gush of rain to join us. One cart fell over in the gush of wind spilling its contents of assorted stuff onto the slick sidewalk. I helped the later gather her possession and then they moved on.
We did not wait for the rain to stop. We hurried out of one protected piece of landscape to a covered sidewalk near the restaurant we had just dined at, and settled under the protection of this sidewalk enclosure as the rain became heavy again. There we noticed that one of the bars was offering rock music later and so we decided to indulge, killing time with a brief but moist walk to the outdoor mall a few blocks away, ducking in and out of doorways until the mall ended and we scrambled back to the promenade, strolling it in the drizzle until it was time for the bands to go on.
Maybe the morning would provide a brighter, dryer day, I thought as I slipped my rum and coat and listened to music so mellow it might well have put me asleep, but only made me zone out for a while – a good thing, I thought.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The men at the end of the walkway

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The two men at the end of the motel walk I passed each time to and from my car seemed to connect several elements of my life.
One, recovering from what appeared to be an auto accident with a brace on his leg and neck, had come to Cape May to attend the Victorian Fashion Show – an event that usually took place in the beach side conventional hall during Victorian Week, but apparently was not to take place this year.
And the two men were disappointed.
They also got some humor from the Lima Bean Festival that opened the last holiday week before winter, part of a throwback to when the Garden State was still the Garden State and not a bedroom community for McMansions.
This, too, got postponed because of the heavy rains and would take place on Columbus Day prior to their return north.
The men said they had a similar festival near where they lived called the onion festival, signifying a similar tribute to the farm heritage rapidly vanishing from New York State where they lived.
The one man’s injuries reminded me of similar injuries I had suffered a year and half earlier. But my injuries were the result of a fall off a curb, not from a crashed car.
The men, who came from Kingston, seemed to connect my various worlds, since I made trips to that part of the county once or twice a year, sometimes in spring, sometimes in August, and so we bonded even though I never asked their names.
They sat outside at all hours taking in the air, protected by a narrow awning over a narrow walkway. Each time, I felt guilty about going to my car since it required the man to move his injured leg. Eventually, I simply went out into the parking lot, letting the rain drops drip on me, and waved as I went by.
I kept thinking how the plans of small people like us sometimes went a foul, and yet, these two men seemed to make the best of it, lingering on the edge of darkness waving at those of us who came and went.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Motel on the edge of town

Monday, October 14, 2013

I thought by paying the extra I would get a larger room than last year. This proved not to be the case.
Situated on the other side of the utility room from the room we had last year, the new room simply had an extra bed, and since it was the south wing of a classic u-shaped motel building, the room lacked the window in the back so all we had were the two windows looking out onto the walkway, windows we had to keep the curtain over or get blinded by light from the motel complex.

We changed from a more prestigious motel with a remote ocean view last year to save money – and I was woken by the classic after midnight moaning from a couple in the room next door, and the bang of the bed. That couple apparently were regulars at the motel but moving to another room saved us from the worst of it – and thinking of Lincoln Dunkin I sort of missed it this year.
Three women who bar hopped on Saturday night moved into the room on the other side of us, complaining about hangovers on Sunday morning, but apparently didn’t get lucky.
The savings on the motel also left us with no microwave, not internet access, and no closet space. We hung up coats and such on a more or less portable rack behind the door, and piled the rest into a dresser near the door.
Having forgotten to bring a night light from home, I stumbled over things from bed to bathroom in the middle of the night, often forced to use my cell phone as a flashlight. This was particularly helpful in locating socks and underwear for my early morning rise to go greet dawn on both mornings (a disappointing affair from previous years since the sun didn’t show his face until it was very high and then only through a veil of clouds).
I mostly went outside to seats along the walk to write or read. On Saturday, a rather uncomfortable couple moved into our old room and then complained about the volume of my conversation on the cell phone (I have to speak loudly to be heard) saying they wanted a nap (this was about 1 p.m.)
The call had come from a sister that – until a few months ago – I did not know existed. So we had a lot to catch up on – like our whole lives.
A couple of elderly men (perhaps gay) occupied the room at the end of our wing, and they perched in their chairs night or day taking in the air, so we passed them to and from our car frequently, pausing to talk about weather and about where we came from.  A couple my age became friends from one of the bars on Friday night. They were disappointed in the music in one club and had moved onto another with a younger crowd so that they could dance. The band was better at the first, but not at all dance music. The second night the band was better, but the couple stuck to the younger club where they could head bang if they wanted.
I just wanted to hear the music so both nights were good nights in that regard.
The second night, we came home late from the bar and found the entire parking lot filled except for the two slots in front of the office which we were told we could not use.
I was about to park on the street when one of the managers came out and waved us into one of those two vacant slots.
He, his wife, and some heavily accented Scottish women seemed to run the place, and the Scottish woman even remembered our visit from last year. All three seemed to be friendly, not unusual for this part of the planet, but pleasant.

We’ll go back to the motel next year, but request our old room back, the one with the window looking onto the woods in the back, and noisy midnight neighbors who remind us what motels are really good for.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Standing at the edge of dawn

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I go out to the sea, aching for a dawn that refuses to come.
Mists cloud my eyes with a gray I don’t have, but does not feel like day.
It is, rather, a fading out of darkness into light with no real distinction as to where one ends and the other begins.
I have to stop expecting easy definitions when life is more of an easing in and out than a swift and dramatic change.
Still day comes and I stand on the brink of the sea to welcome it.
I breathe in clean air my lungs only reluctantly accept, having borne too long the stifling air of the city.
We survive on such stale air because we must.
When all there is to breathe, we breathe it. Just as starving people settle for the least fulfilling fair. Something is better than nothing. Life is better than its alternative.
And sometimes, coming to the edge of the world like this, bearing witness to a place we might still consider pure, we get refreshed. And yet, we struggle to take a breath because we know we shall not breathe so unwarily elsewhere, and must again resort to short breaths of impure so that we can continue and hope we might get back here to the break of day and the clearing skies again.
I stand and let the waves wash over my feet, even though the lingering moisture seeps down into my shoes with grit I shall walk with long after the day has dawned and I have moved on.

Perhaps this is a reminder that pure isn’t as pure we might me believe.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The chaos of life

Sept. 23, 2013

Stark sunlight stings my eyes as I sit in my car against the cool air outside. Hoboken’s north side is bathed in the color of brick.
This is Tuesday, a ritual I have lived with for nearly a decade and still can’t quite get used to it, more painful as of late, but never comfortable.
We all live in this industry of life, churning out produce for the ultimate goal of survival – and if we are lucky, wealth.
I am grossly irresponsible in that I value money less than I ought and somehow stumble along less concerned with fortune than in my need for something else, something I can’t always define.
Life – other than basic needs – is an illusion, a mock image we manufacture to stand out against the crowd, something this town makes obvious each time I come here, this place filled with self-created people who pretend we are more than we really are in order not to feel as small as we sometimes think we are – when both extremes are an illusion.
We are always less than we want to be and more than we ultimately conclude we are during those times when we can’t get a grip on something we strive for.
We are told from early life we ought to be something, turn out some way, produce something that will win us significance, and we take it all to heart when we don’t get what we expect, and accept less like an albatross.
I have always seen people as more than they pretend to be, shoving aside the curtains of false pride to find the core of the person – which indeed when and if I find it – proves more special than the surface, and more significant.
But then, I had fewer assumptions growing up. Nobody told me I would be great or even that I should be, and perhaps this prepared me better for what I might not have later, or made me realize that nobody gets exactly what they want or even sometimes when they truly deserve. Instead most of us get what comes our way and what we made of it.
The guy on the radio yesterday was right when he talked about entropy and the tendency of life to degenerate into chaos, and how art is the struggle to making something out of all that, and if we succeed in making something that lasts, then we are remembered, if not, then someone else might.

I guess that’s why I love the arts and the artists so much, hoping that if I can’t make order of this world, at least I have rubbed shoulders with someone who has.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Getting over

Thursday, October 10, 2013

This is a god awful game where anybody can bend the rules as long as nobody finds out, or that you are ripping off someone most people hate anyway.
What’s a few bucks among friends?
That’s the lesson I learned today. And even if you know someone is getting away with murder, if they got a good enough lawyer, and you don’t have concrete facts, you can’t do anything about it.
The lying, the cheating, and even worse, all considered part of what consenting adults do, and the hardest lesson in this is to accept it or let it eat your insides out when you know the difference between right and wrong.
Sometimes people even pass their crimes along when they move on, as I saw earlier this year when one person was getting off on someone, and simply taught another person how to do it.
Neither one was getting off on me except to pretend like they were innocents, and pure as virgin wool.
Nobody’s that pure in this game, as got proved later when both of them moved on and became a kind of tag team, learning to get over on people together, the elder master teaching the younger cub how to work the system so that when the elder got exposed, the younger cub could take over and do the dirty needs necessary.
Life is a bitch, especially when you see it going down and can’t prove it, and have players who need to protect their interests, and so won’t do anything anyway unless it affects them in particular.
This is a rough game for someone like me, who believes in truth, justice and – well, some version of the American way.