Saturday, May 28, 2011

RIP Gil Scott Heron

Exhibit C

IV. On Foot At Word's End: Snowflake

After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying,"Come up here, and I will show you things that must take place after this".
Revelations 4:1

The train screeches and rocks north through Harlem and into the Bronx. Most of it's passengers have their eyes closed, and I cannot be sure whether their day is just beginning or coming to an end. Three friends talk together, two young men and a young woman. One of the men reclines with his head in her lap. Her face is serious, tough, not angry - not someone to mess with. I'm not sure how far to go, so I pick a stop - Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx - disembark and climb the stairs into the early morning light. There are a few people in motion, and my presence on the sidewalk provokes a double take or two. I walk along a street beneath one of the high walls of Yankee Stadium, like a prison or a fortress, revealing nothing of the world within. Ten or twelve people come out of a small door in the wall marked Housekeeping Entrance. They smile, say goodbyes, and move off alone or in pairs. What a dizzying job that must be cleaning up after 52,000 baseball fans.

I'm not sure which way to walk, there's no plan, but I do have a map. So I consult it and see that I am not very far at all from The Grand Concourse. Well, this sounds pretty grand to me, and I could use some breakfast, so I move in that direction. A black man is walking toward me holding the hand of a small boy, his son, I expect. The man looks at me with something like suspicion, and I smile tightly trying to signify that I'm not crazy, cop, or criminal and say, "hi". He says, "good morning" with something like civility, formality, and I can't help but think he is consciously teaching his boy something. I try to act like this is not tense, but it is, and I can't seem to walk naturally. I continue through a neighborhood, it's very quiet and there are lots of tags on the walls and trash in the street. Someone walks a dog. I write for a few minutes on a bench. I think about litter, what's behind it, why we do it. I'm anxious about it - the mess, the carelessness, on a larger scale - and I think it would be noble and perfect to be someone who picks up the trash in the early morning.

The Grand Concourse, I find it and make use of a comfort station in a park. There's a Bronx Walk of Fame here, and I look up to see the names of Hal Linden and Afrika Bambaataa together on the same lightpole. I don't know which way to walk. A few minutes ago, a young woman in a car parked outside a bodega said,  "look, it's snowing!" It took me a few steps to realize that I was the snowflake to which she referred.

I saw a subway stop and thought maybe it was time to try my luck on Staten Island.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Exhibit B

III. On Foot At World's End: The Machinery

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne,
 as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Revelations 3:21

Walking west now looking for the Subway crossing nearly empty streets running like streams at the bottom of deep canyons. There is little movement, but there are signs of life. Small men, Mexican or Central American, walk or bicycle past me coming from or beelining to jobs in kitchens and as waiters. Some are working now picking up after last night's revelers. They are lean, quick, and focused. They move with purpose, and I wonder where they live and if they sleep. Other men carry incredibly over sized plastic bags stuffed with aluminum cans, or push them slowly in heaped shopping carts. One man, walking quickly, talking loudly to some internal stimuli, stops to drink from an ornamental reflecting pool - "they never listen to the fucking words". Scripture? Song? Only he knows. There is a makeshift shrine in a restaurant window asking for prayers for Japan. I pass a construction site with other men working a crane at dizzying heights. And then a grand hotel with uniformed doormen and limousines parked in front, their black suited drivers at the ready. One of them has a hand printed sign in the window that reads Mr. Koppel. Ted Koppel - a serious, credible, well-known journalist. I want to ask him if he too is in New York to cover The Rapture, to introduce myself suddenly as an imbalanced colleague. I snicker to myself and descend into the underworld looking for the Uptown train.

God Damn The Sun - For The Young Guy In The Hat At Sunrise

II. On Foot At World's End: Following The Current

 Nevertheless I have something against you, because you have left your first love.
Revelations 2:4

I walk the green strip above the river for a couple of blocks, and it's all quite pleasant; a dog walker or two, non-suspicious eye contact, a half-nod, a quarter smile. Then I come upon him grimly staring into the rising sun, a bottle of Beck's in hand, five empties in disarray around his feet. He's dressed for a night of clubbing, apparently with a poor outcome, his jaws are clenched, eyes fixed. I want to ask him on a scale of one to ten with one being "We are all deserving of Salvation" and ten being "I want to watch this whole Motherfucker burn" how he feels right now, but I don't. I believe I already know and I remember well the bitter taste of that libation. At the end of the green strip I cross the empty street, worry for an instant that the young man might jump into the river, wonder if I should go back and check, and completely ignore the question and continue on my way.

Moon Waits For Proper Relief

Monday, May 23, 2011

Exhibit A

Be Comfortable, Creature

I. On Foot At World's End: Dawn

Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are,
and the things that will take place after this.
 Revelations 1:19

It begins at dawn above the brown waters of the East River. For a split second I imagine a vision of thousands of bodies adrift in whirling eddies of blood, but that's not what I find. The light is soft and the Queensboro Bridge is revealed in mist - grand, fine art. This is Sutton Place on Saturday morning, and there are great clean piles of carefully bagged trash outside tall buildings of plush apartments awaiting removal. A young couple sits on a bench still talking animately after a night out. A man takes photographs through a long lense and apologizes for being in my way even though he is not. He seems to be inviting an exchange, and I avoid it. I wonder why I do, look away, take a notebook and pen out of my pack, sit down on a bench to write. A solitary pigeon approaches to within a foot of me. I ask quietly if it is an angel. The bird avoids eye contact and walks away.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In Bars, In Cars, Sidewalks, Stores...Everywhere

Half Baked is Better Than Not Baked At All, Right?

A general plan is taking shape for my tour of New York City. I'm going out from sunrise to sunrise - 24 hours, during which time I must cover Manhattan, Staten Island, The Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. I will take 4 photos an hour - one about every fifteen minutes, and at the top of the hour, I'll stop and write for ten or fifteen minutes. There is a California Evangelical preacher who is predicting that Saturday, May 21st is Judgement Day - a view that is apparently generating interest in a wider audience.

I will be your roving reporter covering the event from the streets of the world's greatest city.

There are 22 chapters in the Book of Revelations - that fact has to figure somehow into this adventure. I am also thinking about working in the I Ching - The Book of Changes. I know next to nothing about it, but the idea occurred to me yesterday so I'll do it.

If I survive, and the world does not end, I'll post an entry (representing one hour of my walk) a day here on the blog beginning next week.

I am looking forward to getting out there.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Best Day Ever Again

all disasters averted today
so far and we go on
smiling, laughing, sleeping, complaining
mundane complaints
never knowing how close or far
it was
from coming down on our heads

we would be wise to
count ourselves lucky
not deserving
because it's coming down on
someone else somewhere else
right now
for no good reason at all
though they're probably
searching for one

I watch three children sleeping
in the backseat of the car
their heads all
leaning in the same direction

for now, we have enough
for now, the earth is solid under my feet
for now, the winds and rain, the heat and cold
are all moderate, restrained,
and polite.

the government here is not
trying to kill us for standing up
not now

no one explodes a bomb here
on a main street crowded with children
and others who believe something
good is possible

we are fortunate today,
not deserving,
and I carry the boy
who sleeps on my shoulder
from the car to his bed,
and am glad for it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Think I Was 13

I don't think I noticed the disco beat back then.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Skull of A German


It always takes you by surprise a little when you find that others are really more fragile than you are - less durable. Isn't it always you who thinks he's at the end of his rope, unhinged, unglued, one second pre-shatter? Maybe when you live just an inch away from that possibility, you never quite have to go there. And these others with their confidence and certainties - you should be ready to catch them, or help them up, or at least get the hell out of their way.

Monday, May 9, 2011

El Chibcha Loco

I Guess You Could Call It Education

It was April there under iron grey skies in that tent camp of cold Korean mud, and that's me scrambling to town whenever possible, in love with a bar girl, putting my life in the hands of a suicidal Honcho trying to scare me with his Daytona 500 cab driving.

BAHALA NA !, I'd yell - which means basically fuck it in Tagalog - not even his language, but he caught my drift. Always this test of fucking nerves, and fuck it was my official personal motto of the age.

I was really in love with the girl, her name was Young, but of course she was not in love with me - a dog tired stereotype, I knew. Another nineteen-year-old-near-cherry-boy-Lance-Corporal fallen victim to the Asian mystique, but fuck that too. That's not how it was.

We were some kind of orphans together, barely qualified to be called young adults, deserted, lost to the world. Coal fires, kimchee, sliding paper doors - big and little shoes outside, stoic faces, every eye averted - it was just hard - the whole fucking world was hard. The warm buzz of the soju completed my transformation into a white ghost dressed in camouflage, living proof that four bottles would not leave you blind like our commanding officer had warned during his Liberty Brief after all, but it would indeed leave you changed somehow forever.

I cried with my friend in the wind on a wet and cold rock mountain face, first time I ever hugged a man, because he was the only one who could understand the type of fucked up I was beginning to understand.
You see, he was uniquely qualified because his father, himself a psychiatrist, had died by his own hand while a patient in a psychiatric hospital.

**please pardon the language, but it was used intentionally to try to recapture a particular state of mind

Friday, May 6, 2011

James Brown - The Good Foot

Itchy Richie

I've decided to go early. Two weeks from tonight, when I get off work, I'll drive to Connecticut then take the train into New York City. My plan is still pretty vague. I aim to stay out for, and cover the five buroughs in, 24 hours. At or about the top of every hour I'll sit down and write for ten minutes. In the course of each hour, I'll take four photographs. I have no itinerary. I'm not sure for how much of the trek I'll be on my own and how much with my brother and sister-in-law. The bottom line is I don't know much, and that's how I like it. But I do know I'm itching to get going.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blitz The Ambassador - Native Sun

I heard a little of this yesterday on the radio and really liked some of the music. What a mix! Blitz is from Ghana, currently living in Brooklyn. This is apparently the whole album accompanying a short film. I have yet to watch and listen to it all, but wanted to pass it on. Hope you like it.

Most of us here know so little about Africa.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dying Arm

The dying arm
was the strong one
quite recently.

Try to ignore it.
You are building strength.

It just takes a little longer now,
relatively speaking,
because you're getting older -
but you're not old

You're not dying.

No, of course not.

Open it.
Close it.


Bridge of Sighs - Robin Trower

Music from years ago for tender things in a hard world on a rainy day.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Buried At Sea

As I was getting ready for bed the night before last, my wife called my attention to the television and a special report announcing the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden. What did I feel? It's about time, I thought, but it didn't resolve anything, make anything right, or bring anyone back from the dead. Vengeance - some idea of making the score even through the multiplication of death.

Who was Bin Laden to us? None less than The Boogie Man - he who murdered innocent civilians around the world and was delusional enough to think himself pious and his war against ordinary people holy. And in fevered pursuit of The Boogie Man and his ideas, what have we become? Destroying cities, bombing mountain weddings, torturing prisoners, strafing boy shepherds in the blood fog of righteous war.

Truth be told, I'm glad he's dead and glad that it was an American who killed him. Something about that satisfies something in me, but it's a dark thing, and not something to celebrate. I will not chant USA,USA,USA in a crowd as if it were some hockey game and our team just scored the winning goal. 

At this moment, celebration feels like the wrong response, though the impulse to do so is also present. It is a moment of gravity, something heavy that calls for dignity and a civilized response.

May we take this time to solemnly watch The Boogie Man sink down beneath the waves, away into the dark abyss. May you carry down with you more than just your own murder, deluded ego and culture of Death, Osama.

May you carry down ours as well.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

His Own Man

Jack is five years old and the youngest sibling. He has recently revised the birth order of the family by deleting his older brother and sister, who he sometimes describes as annoying, and adding George (3) and Alissa (4). Today I watched them play as I mowed the lawn for the first time this Spring. Jack led the way, wearing his new glasses and a green bucket on his head, exploring the visual world through a large handheld magnifying glass. George and Alissa were obviously impressed.

Carl Sagan Making Sense

Pale Blue Dot - Animation from Ehdubya on Vimeo.

Thanks to Chris Wade of San Franciso, California

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